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

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….

jeffrey bilhuberjeffrey bilhuber

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?




ace47ca6cd2b46699fc3108b1bd660f8sabbe interior design

9209ff48c320139d78e8bb916dbdfac8at home in love

ee90851ceb1802be8c9ac02f15309394cheryl ketner interiors

grandmothers-china-cabinet-pergo-hardwood-max-slate-oak-pencil-shavings-studiopaper and pencil co




mathischipholly mathis interiors

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?



striped dhurrie

I’m on a few weekly email lists about estate sales in my area, some of which have pictures of the items in the house.  This upcoming sale in Cranston, RI is loaded with amazing loot (antique rugs, bamboo x benches!) but I practically choked on my corn flakes when this coral and navy dhurrie rug popped up.

kilim  Holy.  Crap.  And it’s huge, at least 9′ x 12′ based on the pictures.  I love the unique color scheme too.  Blue and white rock of course but the warmth of the coral is so lovely.

John-Robshaw-Living-Room-Matchbook-Magjohn robshaw’s living room via matchbook

decorative-rug-blue-and-gold-striped-rug-dhurrie-rug-Oscar-de-la-Renta-_bedroom-Punta-CanaOscar de la Renta via asmara

Unfortunately I’m not in a place to buy *cough* another rug for the dining room.  Yes, I snagged this 6′ x 9′ bokhara for 100 beans at Cove Antiques in New Bedford.


It was so dirty, I think a horse slept on it.  Nothing three days out in the rain and much steam cleaning couldn’t cure.

We’re also saving up to put hardwood floors in the dining room once we rip up the heinous green carpet.  But that coral and navy dhurrie rug will haunt my dreams. Somebody for the love of Pete who lives in Southern New England and has taste as good as John Robshaw go get that beauty!



DIY stencil curtains

Happy 2016!  I hope you all had a peaceful and relaxing holiday.  We had a straight up great Christmas.  Food, friends, family, kicking it by the fire, hiking, movies, sushi.  It was awesome.  But it wasn’t all sipping Pinotage and listening to Bing Crosby.  (Seriously run, do not walk, and get THIS wine.  Eno in Providence has it).  We also tackled some major projects at the house, thanks to my workaholic aunt who was visiting.

Try to pretend you don’t still see paint-stained green carpet…I literally used it as a drop cloth.


Namely we tackled the dining room.  You can read more about our saga from mural to navy to peeling paint to white HERE.

One project I also had on my list – even when I was planning to go navy in the dining room – was to DIY curtains with a pattern similar to this by Lauren Liess.

lauren liess textiles antique beige POPLET2 (1)

I’ve only done one other stenciling project (in our old foyer) and it made me want to gouge my eyes out, so I was nervous to stencil white fabric.  Me and precision aren’t exactly sympatico.

But $120 a yard isn’t falling in my lap anytime soon, so I grabbed a pair of Merete curtains from Ikea and the Jaipur paisley stencil from Cutting Edge Stencils (size small).

The Merete has grommets at the top, which I didn’t want, so I sewed 4″ wide buckram from Joann’s to the bottom of the curtain to firm that up and make it the top.  The grommets got cut off when I hemmed the curtain.

For the paint, I custom mixed a warm gray color with acrylic craft paint from Michaels, along with fabric medium, which I’m not entirely sure you need but better safe than sorry.


And no I didn’t iron these before stenciling.  Because I’m lazy.

I used a small foam roller to apply the paint after lightly taping the stencil, on only 2 of its sides, to the curtain with green painters tape.  I swiped the foam roller on a paper towel before starting each stencil to make sure there wasn’t excess paint on it.


I didn’t measure for placement, just eye balled an off-set pattern.  (This is the worst tutorial ever, right?).  In hindsight I should have made the paisley closer together and done more of them but oh well.

Still, it was way easier and turned out far better than I expected.


I snagged this gorgeous and sturdy brass curtain rod off Craiglist for $10.  Rich people throw the craziest shit away.  It’s a fixed length and was perfect for this window #highfivingmyself


Ideally there’d be banging euro pinch pleats at the top but for now the drapery pins are just randomly stuck in there.

I need to hang Aunt Mary on the wall and of course rip up the awful carpet.  That dust storm will be fun.


As for the ceiling color, thank you all for weighing in on the cantaloupe!  I really appreciate your input and hemmed and hawed over a decision, but I finally made one and feel really happy with it.  The color won’t go up until we cover the chipped mess ceiling in tongue and groove panels.  Hopefully I’ll have more to show you next week.  And maybe the sun will come out so I can take some decent pics.

What do you guys think about the curtains?  Do they look cheap?  Squint, then tell me what you think.




changes in the dining room

Okay, before you all burn me at the stake, let me explain.  I wrestled hard with what to do about the dining room mural, an otherwise cool design bathed in the most horrid pink imaginable.  We lived with it for 382 days.  Ultimately the color – that nuclear waste Pepto – was a deal breaker.  Yes, I could have painstakingly covered the offending pink by hand, like a reverse mural, but…..ain’t nobody got time for that!


As some of you know from Instagram, I threw caution to the wind recently and started painting over the mural.  I took almost no pictures of this in-between stage, thanks to the holidays.  The shoddy iPhone pic on IG is all I’ve got.

However a major technical error soon followed – the mural started rejecting the paint.  When we first moved in, I tested the dining room walls with an isopropyl alcohol-soaked cotton ball and it told me the pink was….latex.  So I just got regular paint with built-in primer.  Unfortunately that cotton ball was a rotten liar because the new paint started peeling off if I looked at it sideways.  So the day after Christmas we covered the walls and wainscoting with oil-based Kilz primer, a horribly smelly but magical substance that rights all wrongs.  I’m sure key brain cells fell to the wayside from the fumes but oh well.  At least one crisis was averted!

Then a funny thing happened.  I liked the white.  We’ve only ever seen this room dark pink or dark navy and it’s north-facing so it doesn’t get insane sunlight, plus 8′ ceilings and small-ish 1950’s windows.  The white made things so much brighter.  Shocker, I know.  So I changed my plans and painted the walls BM Swiss Coffee (the trim and wainscot are BM White Dove).


Obviously the green carpet needs to go.  My allergies are girding their loins for that one.  And the room is still a disaster.  BUT.  I have zero regrets about getting rid of the mural.  Ze-ro!  The design gods may have a lightening bolt with my name on it but I’ll catch that shit with my teeth.  As Cartman has taught us…..I do what I want!

With white securely on the walls (no peeling), my next thought was….should I paint the ceiling cantaloupe?  Naturally.  See also: oil paint fumes.


And I’m also attempting some Lauren Liess-esque paisley curtains, courtesy of Cutting Edge Stencils.

So…..cataloupe walls have been catching my eye lately.

880829fd4a8e2b689eb5904cd3dca0eachristina murphy….I think

Orange has long been one of my favorite colors.  My first skateboard was orange.  I had a big orange coat in the 90’s.

celeriecelerie kemble

This could work on the ceiling, right?  I’m going for it.  Afterall it’s only paint.






vintage christmas

I lived with my grandparents growing up and our house was a bit of a time capsule, so it’s no surprise that I love vintage Christmas decorations, music and movies.  The Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s album White Christmas is still one of my favorites.  If I hear the song “Baby what you goin’ to be”, I’m instantly teary-eyed and missing my grandparents so much it hurts.

Somehow we always had the branchiest, most retro-shaped Christmas trees too.  Take a gander at one of ours from the 1980’s.  That’s right, we were still rocking the tinsel which had to be carefully removed each year and saved in an old shoe box.


Here are the things that make my vintage Christmas heart all happy.

Putz houses


Pink christmas trees

luellaluella and june

pinktobi fairley


Winter paint by number scenes



Faux snow globes


snowunder the sycamore

Bottlebrush Trees

hulahula seventy


tinselvintage whites market

On Christmas Eve you can find us in front of the fire, wrapping presents and watching It’s a Wonderful Life.  This year I’m hoping to stay awake long enough to see the ending.  What?  I’m old.

Are you guys vintage Christmas fans?  If not, what’s your holiday decorating style?



painting the dining room

When we first moved into the house, I was convinced I wanted navy grasscloth in the dining room.


I’m now leaning towards neutral grasscloth but either way, the clams to pay for any grasscloth are still in the making.  So my mind starts reeling with in-the-meantime decorating ideas because the pink….is making me mental.  And yes, it’s true that nothing good can happen in this room until the green carpet is gone.


But let’s talk about walls.  I recently stumbled on this dining room by Jessica Helgerson, who’s obviously a bleepin’ genius.  I love the rich green walls with the burlap chairs.  The stain on the hardwood is also very similar to what we’re planning.


The color is Dark Pewter by Benjamin Moore, a great mix of blue, green and gray.

dark pewter

Imagine if that color and this room had a baby


I picked up a sample of the Dark Pewter and am trying to convince my husband that we should rip up the green carpet and live with the sub-floor for a while.  What’s a few splinters, right?




our one year anniversary in the new house

It’s been quite the roller coaster.  Last year at this time, we were shell-shocked and homesick for the old house.  There were a lot of tears in December 2014.  But we’ve come a long way since then.  True, we’re still the owners of many, many interior design crimes.  Such as ZERO hardwood floors (don’t get me started).  Green carpet in two rooms.  Pink….everywhere.  But there are many more wonderful things about the new house that make us so grateful we were able to move.  The new house is bigger, the neighborhood is MUCH nicer than our old one (i.e. no shootings), we have incredible neighbors and there are kids everywhere.  Seriously, my daughter’s soul mates live next door.

We’ve done a lot of work to the house in the last year, as much as two lowly biologists with massive student loan debt can afford.  New high-efficiency furnace, insulation in the attic and knee-walls upstairs, new windows, new mudroom doors, new sump in the basement, totally ripped out the old “finished basement” (water issues).

Cosmetic improvements have been a little slower though, in part because there is so much ugliness to transform.  As many of your know, we re-did Hollis’ room and also the mudroom.  As for the rest of the joint, one of the first things we started doing after moving in was peel off the green damask wallpaper that coated the foyer, stairwell and upstairs landing area and start painting the green-glazed trim.

Foyer the day we moved in


Foyer today


I’ve almost fully rid this room of the green trim…but not quite.  I still have to finish the staircase – stain the treads, paint the trim and spindles (48 spindles!), put down a seagrass runner and decide on artwork.

Ideally I want hardwood throughout the house but for now the black vinyl floor in the foyer isn’t going anywhere.

Here is the scary before in the other direction….


Wow, I’d almost forgotten how bad things were.  Who thought this puke colored trim was a good idea?  It’s like a horror movie from the 40’s.  Weird glass sausage light dangling from the ceiling.

Foyer today


I’m still painting underneath the radiator but….a huge improvement, right?

The foyer has no windows and only gets natural light from the door, so when it’s closed, it’s a cave in here.  I want to get a 3/4 light door to lighten things up.


Something like this….

doortimeless paper

Okay, moving on to our living room – the seafoam bowling alley.  Prepare to be embarrassed for us.  We have almost no furniture.


I’m standing in the foyer, in the one entrance to this retro step-down room.  Green walls, green carpet with no hardwood underneath (this house was built when carpet was king), green marble fireplace surround with non-mantle.


Out those windows is a patio, so obviously there should be french doors there but that possibility is way, way in the future.


You can see behind the tree that I started peeling the wallpaper a bit. It’s gotta go.  Like now.  Also we’ll be knocking out those decorative mercury glass wall cubes, which I assume were for snorting coke during a key party in the 60’s.

I’m envisioning this for the living room…

Floor to ceiling board and batten

laurenlauren liess via la dolce vita

Faux wood beams


living spaces

Possibly paint the window trim black, even though windows themselves are white


And some general vibe ideas….

katekate marker interiors

1e906f97b35ca57ca9adc8952b588fb1green street blog

b40efda1fa70627d1e7175b39f839086country living

0dd879f812a0fe75326f13b919e26060glitter guide

76f80390f811b15aa2f4abf616d79af9design mom

And now…moving along to our pink and green dining room, complete with mural.


The pictures don’t convey how awful the pink really is but trust me, it’s not good, especially at night.  It’s like rotten grade school puke on the floor pink.


I love chinoiserie as much as the next gal and know some of you are obsessed with this mural and probably want to have me committed…but I officially loathe it.  Maybe the green carpet (with no hardwood underneath) is pushing me over the edge.

I’m saving my pennies for grasscloth.  Here’s the look I’m feelin’.  With a little blue thrown in there.

grasssource unknown

It’s exciting to think about what 2016 will bring!  Our plan is to install hardwood in the dining room and living room, which we’ve never done before, so fingers crossed…..

Happy Holidays!




A few of my One Room Challenge favorites

First, thank you all so much for your lovely comments on our mudroom.  You guys are the bomb.  We’re really happy with how the room turned out and now we get the joy of actually using it.  Function.  In this money pit.  Who knew, right?

A ton of crazy talented people participated in this round of the One Room Challenge and here are a few of my favorite transformations.

Simplified Bee.  I love that gorgeous light fixture with the wallpaper and everything that’s going on near that console.


Always Rad.  The awesome power of paint.

bottom right outlet

Design Manifest.  This whole condo renovation (!!!) is stunning but I can’t get over the entry.  I want to lick everything.


Kelly Rogers Interiors.  A cozy and unique office.

kelly rogers

Design Indulgence.  Sherry is an evil genius with neutrals.


Green Street Blog.  Such a sweet guest room.


Kate Collins Interiors.  This closet is beyond adorable.

kate collins

Claire Brody Designs.  The color combination in this room kill me.



Who knows, maybe once the shock wears off from this ORC and my husband and I stop twitching, I might be ready to tackle the little yellow bathroom this spring.




One Room Challenge – classic mudroom REVEAL

We made it!  One Room Challenge is doooone.  And this one was no joke – doing all the work ourselves while working full-time jobs and wrangling two crazy kids, who never stop eating or wrestling.  The majority of the work was new to us – laying floor tile, installing woodwork, building the bench and cubby, and let’s not forget entirely rebuilding the floor.  I owe my husband an enormous debt of gratitude for all he did and to our generous friends who loaned us tools and gave us advice and helped us along the way.

A big thank you to Linda from Calling It Home for opening up the ORC to linking participants and loads of thanks to all of you for lighting a fire under our butts with your support.

Let’s revisit the scary BEFORE, shall we?


Oh hi 1950’s, sure I’d love to store my….canned goods and clear plastic babushka here???

Then things got much worse…..


After re-building the floor joists, we started the One Room Challenge with this blank slate.  Notice the highly effective ceiling light.


And here’s the AFTER










Shiplap walls + herringbone floors + black doors.  Is there anything better?







I’m still painting the doors so don’t look too closely there and the styling is in flux as always…but I love it so much!  I can’t believe this is a room in our house.  This is also the curtain call on major house projects for us in 2015.  We’re fried.  Our 1 year anniversary of moving into the house is approaching and we tackled a lot in that time.  Now we’re ready to get our holidays on.  Eating, drinking, hiking, parties, Christmas music, general not working on the mudroom merriment.

Thanks for stopping by to check things out!  Be sure to pop over to Calling It Home and see the gorgeous transformations cooked up by the ORC featured participants and linking participants.  Super talent, everywhere.

Play catch up on our transformation here….

week 1 // week 2 // week 3 // week 4 // week 5





I’m always nosy about how much a project set somebody back so I’ll just tell you.  We added up all the receipts and the entire project – from floor joists to accessories – cost $2,500.

wall and trim color – Benjamin Moore White Dove
door color – Benjamin Moore Mopboard Black
ceiling color – Benjamin Moore Moonshine
floor tile – Ivetta black slate from Lowe’s
ceiling light – Bellacor
mirror and antler hook – Hobby Lobby
woven basket – Home Goods
gray bins and coat hooks – Lowe’s
plaid scarf – TJ Maxx
orange tray – West Elm
art – Cove Antiques
odds and ends – shopping our house