Dark walls for the new office

We haven’t blogged much recently because we have been super busy with guests and just finishing up some products we’ll be putting up on our blog soon.  Fall is here and as the weather cools down and days get shorter, we find ourselves leaning towards darker wall tones.  We’re finishing up our first floor office space and we’re thinking of going full on dark walls!  It gets decent enough light that we think going dark would be pretty amazing!  Here’s our very stark, plain office right now. This is definitely an in-progress photo so please pardon all the crap laying around!

Here are some of our favorite walls that have been hogging our Pinterest boards!

Sources: 1,2,3,4,5

What do you think of going to the dark side??

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Jumping on the Fauxdenza Wagon

We have a big wall in our dining room that used to hold a picture rail.  That somehow always bugged me, this picture rail hanging in the middle of no-freakin-where.  Anyways, we FINALLY made a trip out to Ikea (its like a 2 hour drive!) and we got ourselves some Besta units and got down to making our fauxdenza.  Now any one in the blogging world knows that fauxdenzas aren’t new – they’re basically floating Ikea cabinets topped or wrapped with wood.  Honestly they are a great and inexpensive way to get a large picture of furniture to anchor a room.  Tons of storage is also a huge plus!

So here’s what we got:

Putting the Besta cabinets together were a breeze – Ikea actually has decent instructions for those.  But then again I guess its kinda like putting a box together.  Anyways, once you have your Besta built and hung on the wall with the suspension rails, its time for the fun part!

We had Home Depot cut our plywood to size for us.  For reference, we used a 3/4″ furniture grade red oak plywood.  3/4″ in a good thickness, anything less than that would look weird in my opinion.  Iron on your veneer edging to all exposed sides.  Something to note that there are different types of veneer.  Since we used a red oak plywood, we opted for the red oak veneer for consistency.  If you use a birch plywood (our other option), look for a birch veneer edging.

Then we sand everything down using an orbital sander with a 100 grit sandpaper and gradually move our way up to a 220 grit.  Be careful when sanding the edges of plywood, make sure you sand from the top down to the sides to avoid splintering the wood.  Lesson learned for us.  Then its time to stain.  We used a preconditioner (very important especially for plywood) followed by 2 coats of Minwax’s Special Walnut stain.  Follow that on with 2 coats of polycrylic seal sanding with steel wool in between each coat.  Bam we’re almost there.

Then attach the sides and top with cabinet screws.  As an extra precaution, we predrilled holes to make sure we didn’t split the plywood.  We didn’t miter the edges of the plywood but kept it simple and perpendicular.  Honestly I like it better this way.

Then  finish it off with hardware if you like.  We haven’t quite decided on hardware yet so for now its just staying naked.  Style and there – you’ve joined the fauxdenza club too.

 

 

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Favorite Coffee Table Books for Your Home

Beautiful coffee table books are a must for any interior space styling – whether they are placed on coffee tables, bookshelves or even bathrooms!  Check out Emily Henderson’s tips on styling any space and you’re bound to see a coffee table book or two or three or four!  By the way, don’t you LOVE Emily Henderson?  She’s such an amazing stylist and I love the new home she just bought!  I can’t wait to see how she transforms it!!

Books bring so much interest and personality to a space and my personal favorite way of displaying books is to color coordinate them, then stack them and place a vase with flowers of course on top, maybe even a ceramic elephant.  Here are my top 10 coffee table books that not only look beautiful, they’re good reads too!

  1. Styled by Emily Henderson:  Of course we start with Styled which is a great segue into the world of home made interior design for regular folks.  Emily starts with a home style quiz and  breaks down beautiful vignettes into very do-able recreations.  She’s definitely helped me understand why something is placed the way it is and why it works.
  2. Tom Ford:  Isn’t this book BEAUTIFUL?  OMG I can just see it on top of our white fauxdenza screaming style, sophistication and savoir fare.  Its also pretty expensive but isn’t Tom Ford always expensive?
  3. The Kinfolk Home: Interiors for Slow Living: Kinfolk founder Nathan Williams’ first book emphasizes simple, intentional living spaces.  What I love about this book is its focus on carefully and slowly putting together of your space.  So often I find myself wanting to finish up a space that I just buy things for the space to fill it.  That typically can result in a pretty space, but a space that doesn’t feel like me.  And while I don’t always completely know what me means interior design wise, the ethos of slowing down and curating a home helps with me learning how to design a space that is more me than something that came out of a book.  I realize that its ironic that I turn to a book to teach me how to design something that doesn’t come out of a book – but you get my point right?
  4. Anatomy in Black:  This is just a cool cool book – plus it teaches you about anatomy entirely in black and gold!  I love black and gold so this one is a real treat for me.
  5. Remodelista: Remodelista.com has always been a go-to site for interior design goodness.  This book is no different.  Read any interior design blog and this book is almost sure to come up as a must have!  For me, this book was a nice take on the modern Scandinavian style – white, light wood with pops of color. 
  6. Elements of Style: Designing a Home & a Life:  Ok I have to be honest here, the best part about this book is the cover.  Its got a great cover that would sit well on any coffee table.  The book itself was just ok for me. It wasn’t super inspiring I think mostly because the vignettes she showcased were just all too similar.  We all love certain things but as an interior design book, I was hoping not to see the same roman shades over and over again.  Just saying – but great great cover. 
  7. Design*Sponge at Home: Now this book I can get behind.  I’ve loved Design*Sponge for a long long time and I also love that her book is bright and cheery!  From DIY projects to before and afters, this book will inspire you to just do something to change the look of your home.  Plus I hear that Grace Bonney is a really cool person too!
  8. The Nesting Place: It Doesn’t Have to Be Perfect to Be Beautiful: Another blogger favorite – I don’t own this one but from what I’ve read about it, it looks like I should get it! 
  9. Every Person in New York:  Think about this book as the illustrated and funnier version of Humans of New York (also a neat coffee table book).  The forward is written by the hilarious Kristen Wiig and in this book Jason Polan who draws for publications like the New Yorker puts together over 30,000 people in 400 pages of funny, cute illustrations of famous people and not so famous people doing everything from eating tacos to jostling along the street.  If nothing else, it was really fun to flip through this one. 
  10. Vogue: The Covers: I’m no fashionista – you just need to look at my daily wardrobe of t-shirts and scruffy jeans to know.  But that doesn’t mean that I can’t appreciate beautiful fashion.  This book showcases more than 300 of the most beautiful, provocative, and fashion-forward covers ever produced and the history and stories behind them!  It’ll turn even me into a fashionista I’m sure!

 

So which book will grace your coffee table today?

 

 

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Cleaning Green – Refilling A Swiffer Wet Jet

Cleaning in a green way is something that is very important to me.  Years ago, in an attempt to sanitize the bathroom, we mopped it with Pine Sol and that made our cat Lily who would walk on the bathroom floor and lick her paws very sick.  Thankfully for us, we used a very diluted version of Pine Sol and after a quick trip to the vet, Lily was ok.  Lily has since passed away, she died last December, but that first incident with her made us vow to use only pet safe cleaning products on our floors, counters and literally anywhere a pet might come into contact with.   After all, our pets (and children) are literally crawling on these spaces all day and what goes on their paws/feet often make it into their mouths.

Our weapon of choice when it comes to cleaning floors is the ever popular Swiffer Wet Jet.  I would imagine this is true for most American families but if there’s something I hate about the Swiffer Wet Jet is the fact that you HAVE to buy their refills.  There are conflicting arguments around whether or not the Wet Jet is harmful to pets and children and that’s definitely not something I want to get into.  Point is, I want to be able to choose what I clean my floor with.  I personally like the Naturally Clean Floor Cleaner and I want to use it with my Wet Jet.  So I did some research and learned that there was a way to get those Swiffer Wet Jet refill caps off so that you could well, refill them!

Functionally the cap on the Wet Jet refills are self-locking – there are little plastic prongs on the inside that latch onto the bottle and this is why you can’t refill them.  But all you need to get rid of these pesky prongs is some hot water and a pair of nail clippers!

Step One:  Bring a little pot of water to boil.  Once it is boiling, place the Wet Jet refill cap first into the water.  The goal here is to soften the plastic enough to be able to twist it off.  Hold it in the water for about 2 minutes, then take it out, and use a rag or pot holder to grab the cap and twist it off.  It should come off really easily.

Step Two:  Once you get the cap off, look for the little pesky locking prongs and snip each and every single one of them off.  I used nail clippers because its easiest plus they kind of look like errant nails that could turn into ingrown ones anyway!  I know they are hard to see in the picture but once you get the cap off, you’ll see them!

Step Three:  Once you get all the prongs off, its just a matter of filling your now refillable bottle with a cleaning solution you like (and is good for children and pets), sealing it back with the cap and inserting it back into your Swiffer Wet Jet.  And then its back to mopping.  🙁

And there you have it – a refillable Wet Jet safe that is safe for all!  And to be clear, this post was NOT sponsored by P&G, the makes of the Swiffer Wet Jet.

 

 

 

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Favorite Etsy Artists Part Deux

I wrote about some of our favorite etsy artists some time ago and its time to add to that list!  I LOVE art from etsy because its unique, its personal and sometimes they can be an inexpensive way to add some art to your walls.  Here are some of my new favorites:

If you like the winsomeness of watercolor, Laura Row Studio is the place to go.  She does some beautiful work of ginger jars, custom pet portraits, landscape and her recent work seems to be a little darker (color-wise, not theme-wise) and I’m loving all of it!

For inexpensive abstract art, Celine Printables is a good way to fill up some of those voids in your gallery wall.  Not everything on your should be loud and patterned, honestly that would just be a little overwhelming.  Sometimes, a little abstract pattern goes a long way toward mellowing down a wall and drawing your eye to the brighter pieces, while simultaneously providing it a place to rest.  Celine Printables is a instant download site meaning you’ll need to take your print somewhere to get printed but for $5 a print, its a great deal.

Another inexpensive instant download store is Melinda Wood Designs.  She does abstract geometric type art, plant and cacti photography (who doesn’t love a good cactus!) .  In fact, we have her modern mountains on our kitchen shelf right now and we’ll be adding on some cacti prints because every single cactus I’ve ever owned has died on me so I’ll be sticking to prints from now on.

Last and most certainly not least, we have one of my absolute favorites: Janet Hill Studio.  Janet Hill is amazing.  Her art is quirky, very 1950s and it always adds that needed pop of color to a room.  Everyone and I mean everyone who has seen her art in my home always ask – who’s that piece by?  Check her out, you won’t regret it!

Have fun collecting!

Homesick Candles: Smelling Home

We recently took a trip back to Kristen’s hometown to celebrate her parents’ 40th wedding anniversary.  It was a low key event but it was definitely nice to see everyone again.  Kristen grew up in Michigan and I went to school in Michigan (that’s how we met) and there’s something awfully familiar about the sights and smells of the place.  Corn was in almost full abundance when we went so the air smelled “corny” – a cross between the smell of a corn husk coupled with dirt.  Sounds weird I know but my wordsmith skills only get me so far.

Being back in Michigan made me think about Massachusetts where Kristen and I moved to after school and spent 5 amazing years in.  We loved it and would move back in a heartbeat.  That’s saying a lot considering we aren’t the biggest fans of snow which Boston gets a lot of.   Living in the midwest is hard after coming from the east coast.  The lack of seafood (here’s a shoutout of our favorite Boston seafood joint, Neptune Oyster!), the lack of the hustle and bustle of city life and while we love the friendly people from the midwest, its weird that I sometimes miss the “hey watch it” tone of folks as they rush through streets to get to work.

All this makes me love the idea of homesick candles which was started by a group of friends who relocated from the states that they loved.  Here are some of my favorites:

Michigan of course:  Takes you back to The Wolverine State, with scents reminiscent of indian summers, cherries, and chocolate.  Mmm chocolate.

Massachusetts:  Go Red Sox!  Apple cider doughnuts and Dunkin coffee – ah yes Dunkin coffee – in my books, Starbucks doesn’t hold a candle (pun intended) to Dunkin.  I would have however liked a lobster roll candle.

Indiana:  This is where we live now.  Kettle corn, hay and denim – I guess that’s what the hoosier state smells like!

Norcal:  I spent time here during my internship in the Valley and after Massachusetts, its my favorite state in the land!  Pear and redwood is exactly how Napa smells like!

Which state would you burn a candle for?  Which states holds a candle to your home state?

 

 

Grilled Vietnamese Pork Chops

I struggled with whether or not I should include recipes in my blog.  After all, I’m just a regular home cook with a couple of awesome dishes up her sleeve.  That said, Kristen said these were some of the best grilled chops she’s ever had and that not sharing them would be a crime in itself.  Since its grill season and we have a new grill, here I am sharing my recipe for grilled Vietnamese pork chops.  I’m not Vietnamese but I certainly do make a mean Vietnamese Pork Chop.

Most of the time, I wing proportions of ingredients but because of you, my dear dear readers, I’ve made an effort to note down all my proportions and hope that they will help you.  Feel free to make adjustments as needed – make it your own I always say!

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 lb Pork Shoulder (sliced into 1 inch thick slices and tenderized with a mallet if you want) – This yielded about 8 nice sized chops for me

Marinate:

  • 1 stick of lemon grass grated (you should be able to get this at your local supermarket in the herb/asian section)
  • 5 cloves of garlic grated
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoon of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of honey
  • 1 teaspoon of dark soy sauce (easily replace with regular soy)
  • 2 tablespoons of fish sauce (this is probably the most exotic ingredient but check your local Asian stores, they definitely have it!)
  • 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil

Sauce: (Totally optional but I like it a little bit wet!)

  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of honey
  • 2 tablespoons of fish sauce

Step One: Cut your chops into 1 inch thick slices.  I like to tenderize them just a bit with a mallet.  It also helps me deal with residual anger issues.  The cut of meat I used was a little leaner than I would have liked – so if you can get fattier pieces, do, because it makes everything just a tad more juicy.

Step Two:  Mix all the sauces together (soy sauce, fish sauce, sugar, honey and black pepper).  Once you get a nice mix going, add in your grated garlic and grated lemon grass.  In case you’re wondering what lemon grass looks like, here’s what I got.

 

Step Three:  TASTE the sauce.  It should be light to dark brown depending on the type of soy sauce you use and taste savory sweet with notes of garlic and a scent of lemon grass.  If you want it sweeter, add more honey.  If you want it more savory, add more fish sauce.  After you are satisfied, add the oil.  (I apologize for not taking a photo of the sauce but you can see what it is like in the next picture!)

Step Four:  Add your marinate to your chops.  I prefer to tenderize my chops a tad to make sure they don’t turn out too tough when I grill them.  Make sure to get into all those nooks and crannies!  Leave it for at least 5 hours or overnight if you can.

Step Five:  Heat your grill up and oil it to ensure the chops don’t stick.  Grill on medium to high heat for about 4 minutes on each side.  Try to get fantastic grill marks on them!  You want them slightly charred but cooked quickly so that they don’t dry out.  Pork has a tendency to do that.  As you are grill, take some of the remaining marinate you have from the bowl you kept the chops it and brush the chops.  If you run out of marinate, use your sauce to keep them wet.  This is important in keeping them juicy!

Step Six:  Serve with some lettuce and pig out!

So try it this weekend and if you do, let me know what you think and how it can be improved!  I’m always looking to get better!

Counter Stools Roundup for under $310

We are in the midst of getting quotes for a small kitchen remodel – new countertops, sink and faucet, under cabinet lighting (still a maybe!) and a backsplash.  As part of this kitchen reno, I wanted to get new counter stools.  We got our original saddle back counter stools from Target 5 years ago and they are slightly worse for the wear.  We use them A LOT.  The island is just one of those gathering spaces that we eat at, we work at or we just doodle at.  One of our Target stools now has a loose leg and we  use it as a little side table in our loft area.  The other good stool is sitting all alone at our kitchen island and we figured its time she retired.

I personally LOVE the Cherner counter stools.  I mean just look at these beauties!  There’s something so sculptural about it yet its elegant and warm and fits right into a variety of kitchens.  I’ve read that they are incredibly comfortable and sturdy too.  $800 a stool however may be a little out of my price range.

Image Source

 

But what the Cherner stool has helped me do is to really narrow down what we want in a counter stool:

  1. Natural brown tones –  our kitchen island is a dark java and we want a stool that will stand out against it enough but not so much like a white or colored stool.  At the same time, we are getting white quartz countertops (most probably Torquay by Cambria) so a brown tone would help warm things up against the coldness of the stone.
  2. It has to have some kind of architectural sculptural feel to it.  Granted this requirement is a little more vague but it should evoke something when you look at it.
  3. No thick padded stools – somehow those remind me of a more traditional kitchen and that’s definitely not a look we are going for.
  4. In line with number 3, we definitely want something modern looking.

After much researching, we finally settled on either wood or leather stools.  Price wise we are looking at about $300 tops – we did find one that was $310 which is why the title of this blog post is so weird.  Here’s our final 8.  (As an aside, I think I’m driving Kristen nuts with these counter stools selections – we started with at least 16 and have now reduced it to 8).  We can’t buy our stools before our countertops get here, but tell me which ones do YOU like?

Counter Stool Round Up All.001

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 |

5 | 6 | 7 | 8 |

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