Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Designing a room around Dark Furniture: Part I

One of my good friends and her husband just bought the most AMAZING dining room table from Restoration Hardware.  It's actually this one (or very very similar to this one), and it's absolutely stunning.

Now that it's been delivered, they are in the process of making room for it in their apartment, and have very cleverly decided to split their huge living room, so that half is for the dining area, and half is for the living room.

The old floor-plan looked something like this:

I only know the general details of how the room is being split up, but I imagine the new floor-plan will look similar to this:

Genius, right?

By flip-flopping the room, you now walk into the "dining room" from the hallway, and in general have a good flow for entertaining.

What else is changing from the old layout?  Well the ottoman is going to be way too big to transfer over to the other side of the room, so that needs to be replaced.  By replacing it with a smaller coffee table, and eventually downsizing the TV stand, they will have room for living and dining spaces in the same room.  I LOVE this. City living at its best.

The challenge?  Designing the rest of the room around dark furniture (ding ding ding, the title of this post!)

The new dining room table is made of reclaimed oak - which is so incredibly gorgeous but the stain on it is a dark brown.  Their existing sofa and club chair that will live on the other half of the room are both made of dark brown leather, which means there is a lot of dark brown happening in this space.

The walls of the room are a very light taupe color, the crown molding is white, and a beautiful bay window that lets in tons of natural light. Oh, and the space still has original hardwood floors.  It doesn't get better than that! The room has good bones, so it will be an easy task to use what they already have, and turn it into a complete and cohesive space.

Here's where the room stood last week after the table was delivered.  Excuse the iPhone picture - it's a little grainy here:

The knee-jerk reaction to having lots of dark furniture is to compensate with lots of light colors everywhere else.  On one hand, yes, bringing in light colors around the dark pieces (ie: light pillows on a dark sofa) do help to lighten the space, but the real magic needs to happen in the space at and above eye level when you walk in a room.  Think about it for a second... dark furniture sits below eye level when you walk into a room, so if you have light walls, and light curtains, and light art (or worse, no art), your eye goes straight down, and visually the space just feels smaller.  Adding interest through color and pattern at and above eye level, creates a feeling of balance, and so the "challenge" of dark furniture, sort of isn't a "challenge" anymore.

Trust me, it will make more sense as you see it come together.

Ok, moving on... so what's the plan in here?  Since the above picture was taken, my friend already ordered a natural fiber rug to go under the dining room table.  Good call girl.

The rug is going to define the dining space, and separate it from the living room.  Also, massive area rugs are SUPER expensive, so to even think of getting a rug to cover this entire room, we're talking serious money.  No thanks.

Why else was it a good idea to go sisal?  It's neutral, it's easy to clean (it's going under a dining table after all) and it's mainly covered  up with the table anyway, so the focus of the room will be elsewhere.  Any pattern would go mainly unseen here with a huge table on top of it.

My friend also said that the curtains need to be replaced because they can't find the same ones anymore, but she likes the blue so isn't opposed to something similar.  

Sweet.  Perfect place to jump right in...

Here's what I think needs to happen on this side of the room:

Minimal changes my friends.  

First, they need chairs.  They obviously know this.

Then, I think that filling that back wall out is priority #2, so that your eye doesn't stop at the table. 

Oversize art will help... like OVERSIZE.  I always find that it's hard to find large scale art... it seems so big when you buy it, but once you get it on an empty wall like this one, it's like an island in the middle of an ocean.  My point?  We need to find massive, beautiful, and not ridiculously expensive art.  

What else?  A bigger lamp that takes up more visual real estate will help.  And plants.  I LOVE bringing in larger house plants to wake up an empty corner.

I started playing around to test out different looks, and at first, I went more "traditional".  I think the table is so amazing - it's a little rustic.... a little french-y feeling......... I loved the idea of adding Louis XIV chairs with it.  

Here's the first look I came up with:


I love love LOVE these chairs - that dusty blue linen is so pretty, and I was thrilled to see it on two complimentary sets of Louis XIV chairs.  The blue fabric and lighter wood on the chairs surrounding the table will immediately bring life into the space.

LOVE.  

I also thought it was nice to have the taller rectangular chairs at the head of the table, and mix in the round backs in the middle, but again if you like the look of one over the other, you could certainly stick with one type of chair.

I should also take the time now to call out the fact that the wood on the chairs is NOT the same color (or even same type) as the wood on the table. 

That's on purpose my friends.  

Some people are weird about mixing woods, but it doesn't bother me!  I like the look of different woods in a space, because it looks "collected" instead of "we bought the set".  If it will drive you nuts, the good thing about wood is that you can stain it, but I like the different wood tones.

Moving onto the art, I am SO into botanical art right now - you literally see it everywhere, from shelter magazines to the blog world.  These oversize prints from Ballard are SO GOOD.  They are massive - each one is 42" high, by 27" wide.  With prints this large, the frames should get pretty close to meeting the picture molding that runs around the walls, which will naturally draw the eye up, while taking up almost 5' across that wall. Mission accomplished - these would meet the goal of filling the blank space out, without making it feel super busy (the way that a gallery wall can sometimes do).

The floor lamp has a bent bronze neck (shaft? stem? base? what IS that called??) and I like that this also helps fill out the space on that wall.  I also like that having the bent shaft makes it different than a standard floor lamp.  If the wall was still feeling empty once all of this was in the room, my recommendation would be to have two identical floor lamps similar to this flanking either side of the buffet.  I also can't remember the overhead lighting situation in here, so they might actually need the extra light.  Boom. Kill two birds with one stone.

The fiddle leaf fig stands on the other side of the buffet in this mock up, but really any sizeable green houseplant would do in the corner.

And finally, the curtains... I thought that with the blue linen chairs, blue curtains might be a bit much, so I mocked this up with grey linen.  I think I like it.  The lightweight fabric will feel visually light (as opposed to a heavy fabric like velvet), while the grey still has enough of a color presence to draw the eye up to the ceiling.

Overall I like how this all came together, but I didn't stop there... I swapped a few things out and came up with another version of this room:

What changed?  Well the chairs are a slight variation of those first ones, this time in a sandy linen.  With the sisal rug and all the wood, it feels like a lot of brown on brown, and so the accessories need to change.  I did a dark blue (almost navy) curtain, and swapped out the art, for a symmetrical gallery wall of... wait... what is that... more botanical prints!  Holla!

I told you I'm crazy for botanical prints right now.

These ones have a super saturated inky blue background with that green... I love it.  I think with the navy curtains, it looks awesome.  I'm still half and half on the chairs though... is it too much brown or are they ok with the art and curtains?  I think I need to see the color of the linen in person to tell if its more brown than cream.

My friend mentioned that they do like the vibe of West Elm, so I wen on to put together a third, less traditional, more modern version of this space...

...so another mock-up was born:


The starting point for me in here was the curtains.  I think these are so cool, and the pattern will definitely succeed in drawing the eye up, and bringing some color to the room.  The floor lamp also got switched up for an aged bronze pharmacy lamp.  I like alternative floor lamps, and these just look cool, although take up less visual real estate than the floor lamp with the drum shade.

I'm loving the color that these chairs bring to the space - I also love the detail of the individually hammered nail heads around the edges.  It just makes it a little more special.

Some of you might be thinking... If you're trying to lighten up the space, why are you putting dark blue chairs with already dark furniture??  And I totally hear you... but the point I'm trying to drive home is the need for balance.  

The challenge is not how to bring as much light colored "stuff" as possible around the dark furniture, but rather in balancing the darkness with other rich colors at or above eye level.  So while these chairs are upholstered in a darker peacock colored fabric, the shock of color paired with similar colors in the art, and yet another variation of the color echoed in the curtains balances things out.

Even if none of these ideas make it off the cutting room floor and into real life, this is a good starting point for visualizing this half of the room...

Next up, I'll be tackling some ideas for the other side of the room... the living room side.  Working on integrating accessories that accent their dark leather sofa, club chair, and some ideas on how to style a cohesive space to pair with their new dining room...

Monday, January 19, 2015

Baby Rooms: Statement Walls and Ceilings

I am pretty sure that if you played one of those psychological word association games, and someone said "statement wall" the first thing you thought of wouldn't be "baby room", however I happen to think these two things... statement walls (and ceilings) and baby rooms kind of go hand in hand.

Why am I thinking about baby rooms you might wonder?  No, I am not with child.  

My sister and one of my best friends are both pregnant, and due very VERY soon! With babies on the brain, I've been mulling around the idea of my own future baby's nursery.  And by "mulling around" I really mean, giving WAY too much thought to.  So much so that I even have a super secret baby board on Pinterest - it's private, and yes, that is actually it's name.  Don't get me wrong, it's not that I'm hoarding my baby room ideas, but more that I don't want my friends to think I'm accidentally pregnant before Kris and I get married this summer.

I digress.

Anyway, this post was born, after I was aggressively pinning to my super secret baby board over the weekend.  I was in a food coma after too much pasta, and a not so great Paul Walker movie, and found myself just pinning away... nursery after nursery, bunny eared hat after baby moccasin (yes, baby moccasin's are a thing).  45 minutes into my pinning frenzy, I realized something.  About 90% of all the baby rooms I loved had one thing in common.

Statement walls, or ceilings.  Yes, a statement ceiling is a thing now too (along with baby moccasin's), and they are AWESOME.

Example one:


This nursery, albeit beautiful is a little bland.  Grey and white galore.  It's nice - clearly the parents have good taste (or a talented, yet, color averse designer) but just as you're getting all judge-y about how this poor baby's nursery is so completely and utterly neutral, you look up and bam.  

That ceiling.

Those stripes.

It just gets me.  And I bet same goes for the baby.

It makes so much sense to paint the ceiling something cool... that baby is lying in the crib, brainstorming how to escape, and all the while, staring at the ceiling.  It (the baby) will probably log countless hours staring at the ceiling, so why not make it something worth staring at.  Plus the stripes will probably confuse the baby and make it sleepy, which is the ultimate goal, right??

Anyway, I have one more note about stripes that I want to add in.

Warning: Some of you might hate me for what I'm about to say, but in my (very humble) opinion, stripes on a wall are SO DONE.  Please people, for the love of god stop painting stripes on the wall... at least for a minute.  

BUT on the ceiling??  Stripes on the ceiling = awesome.

Also, I wanted to add for good measure that I actually love this nursery - monotone colors and all.

Ok moving on... if grey isn't your thing, you'll LOVE this one.  Hello color!  And a wall mural!

Can you just imagine all the fun little games of pretend your kids could have in a room with a mural that conjures up images of the "It's a Small World" ride from Disneyland???

And the magenta next to that yellow???

It's just too good.

I will say, this room is much better suited for a small child (and probably a girl) as opposed to an infant, but it could be a magical solution for a room shared by baby and older sibling, or even in a playroom.


And if the last room wasn't whimsical enough, check out the wallpaper on this ceiling!

Some of you may be familiar with this print from one of my favorites, Jenny of Little Green Notebook - she recently did the ceiling of her girl's playroom in this exact wallpaper, and it is just so darling.  I love the little swallows flying around in the clouds, and the various shades of blue would work equally well in either a girl or boy's room.


More striped ceilings, and this time in mustard yellow.  Now THAT is a statement.  Luckily, I happen to love it.

And with the dark walls?  Sooooooo good.  Can you imagine if the dark paint was also chalkboard paint?  Some people feel the same way about chalkboard paint as I do about striped walls, but you know, we can agree to disagree here.  

For a kid's room what could be better than encouraging that kind of creativity and freedom to create??  It's their space, let them go all Picasso on that wall!

Not to mention, you get to look like the cool parent with extra amazing taste. So there's that.

Speaking of great taste, is there anything better than this animal wallpaper?

There are giraffs. There are birds.  There are geckos...  The entire animal kingdom is representing here, and the black and white almost makes it like a modern, and kid friendly toile, letting you play with color in the bedding and rugs.

Also don't get me started on the Little Darlings prints.  They are so lovely I've almost ordered them multiple times for our place... and we don't have kids.  They are just that cool.


More little darlings framed in this room!  And how hip are these walls (why do I feel so old and "not hip" using the word "hip"??)

Anyway, I'm not going to lie, this arrow print could be a little dizzying, but for the hippest of parents (omg, I need a new word other than hip, help me!), this would be really awesome.  I'm not sure I'm cool enough for something like this (clearly), but I like it anyways.  And I think it's good to have aspirational design.  

Perhaps this is what our baby's fabulous nursery would look like in our southwestern adobe villa in Arizona one day.  You know, for when we are alternating between Aspen, Hawaii, and the Southwest for the winter??

Actually, back to being serious for a second.... this is wallpaper in the photo, but I think you could totally replicate something like this with a stencil, or even a good eye and a steady freehand.

Just throwing it out there....


And then simply because I cannot resist its charm, the lovely swallow wallpaper again.  It's just so sweet!  


And I know it's hidden down here at the bottom, but it doesn't make it less important.  On the contrary, this birch wallpaper has been a LONGTIME favorite of mine.  And it WILL be in my house one day.  

Whether in a nursery or in our badass powder room, or walk-in closet.  It will be mine.  It's so chic.  I never get sick of it.

And finally, how sweet are these clouds??

Another simple stencil idea on a simple grey wall.  Yeah, that mom has good taste - that's what he's thinking too, as he's all cozied up on his bed, refusing to take a nap.

So what are your thoughts on statement walls and statement ceilings in a kids room?

I already know my mom's thoughts on the topic, and she's totally on board.  

As kids, my sister and I had a room with rainbow wallpaper.  It was so cheery and fun.  Kind of perfect for a kids room, and let's be honest - if you can't be whimsical, and take some major risks and make a loud statement in a kid's room, where CAN you??

Side note, I tried to find a similar wallpaper to the one we had in our room as little girls, and the result to a google search for "rainbow wallpaper" is a total throwback to Lisa Frank.  To you 90's kids out there, you KNOW what I mean!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Dining Room Updates and Holiday Touches


I realize that Christmas is over, but before the holiday decor comes down I wanted to share some pictures of our dining room all dolled up for December.  

The last pictures I shared with you of our dining room were quite a while ago, so we can treat this as a bit of a house tour as well to showcase some of the pretty little updates that have been made in here recently.  For those of you too lazy to click back through that link, here's where the dining room had been:


It was fine before, but there were lots of little things that bothered me.  It wasn't 100% our taste, and it felt really busy to me.  Kris loves modern things, so lots of pattern and color isn't up his alley.  Myself, I'm drawn to more classic pieces, so the tribal rug - as much as I loved the blue - never felt right.  To me, the combination of the shelves, with the color and pattern on the rug, with the block of black in the middle of the room was disjointed.


Aside from the rug, and the chairs around the table, you might wonder what else has changed...

Look closely at the walls.  They're no longer full of holes, scuffs, and cracks (not that you could easily see that in any of the pictures, but trust me when I say that they'd seen better days).  They got patched and painted!  And it doesn't stop there.  The peeling paint on the heater got sanded off, and primed and painted.  Hallelujah!!

Between the fresh coat of paint, a second set of shelves on the left wall, the new rug, and the new chairs, this room went from feeling kind of chaotic and busy (to me), to completely calm. 

Because the shelves take up the entire left wall of this room they make a big statement  There is a lot going on - lots of color in the books, art and accessories.  Take all that, and with the blue patterned rug, the art next to the shelves, and the gallery wall on the opposite side and there was just too much going on.  Now, the room feels more balanced to me.  Taking out the bold rug, and using muted tones throughout the entire room allows the bookshelves to shine, instead of competing with them.

Normally, I'm not one to go with all whites and greys and taupes in a room, but since the bookshelves are the focal point, I absolutely LOVE the monotone palate.


Can I just take a second to tell you how much I love our new dining room chairs??

These are the Lydia chairs from World Market and they are an absolute steal for the quality.  Super plush padded seats, nice tight tufting, sturdy frame, and individually hammered nail heads trimming out each of the seat backs.  There is good support, and they are really comfortable.  Aside from the positive practical aspects, they are so pretty.  The linen and the nailhead is such a natural marriage together, and the tufting just sort of puts them over the top for me.  In a good way :-)

I especially love that the nailhead runs around the sides and back, so that when they're tucked into the table, you still get that great detail.

It's love.

You'll notice peeking out behind these chairs are two mini Christmas trees.  Tree twins in the dining room.

Since I work from home a lot, it's been so nice to have the holiday decor spreading into this space as well as our living room.  The trees in here, along with stars, ornaments, and garlands are all from Ikea.  The ornaments in here are actually the same ones I'd used in the garland in our living room.  I really like the continuity from one room to the next - especially as these spaces are open to one another.

I once read in House Beautiful that one secret to making a small home feel bigger is to use the same color palate in every room.  I have never forgotten that, and ever since focusing the colors in our house to grey, black, white, tan, gold, and various shades of blue, it really has made it seem bigger.  Keeping the green and gold going in here from the living room makes it feel less busy, even though we have two relatively tall, fully decorated Christmas trees in a not-that-big space.

 

The tree's themselves were really easy to put together, and from a glance look pretty realistic.  I love that the branches are spaced out.  It gives off that sort of sparse look that I've always admired in Nordic holiday design.

Not sure what I mean?  You can see some good examples of that sparse, minimalistic type of tree herehere, and here.


 

Up close, I loved that the ornaments ranged in tone from gold, to copper, to a pale frosted pink (shh don't tell Kris).  I also loved that they are made of plastic, so they were light as a feather, and didn't weigh down the branches at all.

Not sure if you noticed, but there is also a fairly large white ceramic deer head on our wine rack.  He made an appearance last year in our "winter wonderland" of a hallway, but this year, he looks so at home in between these trees.




Also, notice the "tree skirts"?  They're from Ikea too.

They actually aren't tree skirts at all - they are just the mini Sheepskin Rugs wrapped around the tree base, but I love how soft they are, and how they totally go with the mono-tone color palate of this room.  I could only find the faux sheepskin's online, but if you can, get the real ones.  They drape so much better than the fake ones, and are SO SOFT.  Huge bargain too.  Something like $25.  I've had ours for a little over a year now - I like draping them over the backs of our not to comfortable wicker chairs for a little extra cushion, but for the holidays, they are serving as tree skirts in the dining room. #makethemostofwhatyouhave

Let's talk about the new rug for a moment...

Hellloooooo loverrrrr!


Unsurprisingly, I agonized over the decision to sell our blue rug and get something else for way too long. I was never 100% happy with the blue one - it was always just a little too small for the room, and a little more "Aztec" than I'd been anticipating, which felt kind of forced in our more traditional dining room - so when RugsUSA had another huge sale over Labor Day (yes, that long ago) I decided it was time to make a change.

I thought about another natural fiber rug since we've had such a great experience with our other ones so far, but worried it would be too bland.  I looked at rugs similar to the one we had in our old living room (it now lives in our bedroom) but didn't want another trellis pattern that competed with the bold navy trellis runner we had in the hallway.

I ended up finding the Tanger Kambal Moroccan Trellis rug from RugsUSA, and while I liked it online, I was still waffling a bit on my decision against a natural fiber.  Ultimately, I ended up ordering it since it was on sale for 75% off, but I second guessed my decision up until the day it arrived.  All I can say is THANK GOD I just pulled the trigger, because I absolutely love everything about it.

It's hard to tell from these photos, but the print is a light grey quatrefoil on a cream background.  It's a bit bigger than the old one, soft as a freshly washed golden retriever puppy, and it has a really pretty sheen. Depending on which way the nap is laying, the color changes.  For instance, if I'm in the living room looking at the dining room, it kind of looks like an all white flokatti rug, but as you walk closer, you realize there's a pattern in it.  I just LOVE that.

One person complained online that the grey was more taupe in real life than the silver depicted online.  She is right, however that is one of my favorite parts about it.  It's a color that can only be described as "greige".  It's not grey, but it's not beige.  It's somewhere in the middle which is preferable in my opinion.  It means that we won't be tied to grey or tan in whatever room it finds itself in in the future.


Anyway, back to Christmas decor...

Here's a close up of the fake tree branch... looks pretty good, eh?  Also forgot the mention before that the branches are moldable.  They must have wire in them, so you can bend them a bit to look less perfect and more real.

Notice how you can see me in my jammies in the reflection of that ornament?  Ha!  No judgement!  I actually took these pictures during a power outage, when San Francisco was pretty much shut down from a major storm.  What else would one be wearing other than jammies???


And here we are looking back at the bookshelves.  I'd already posted about the one on the right, but the shelves on the left weren't there yet last time I wrote about our dining room.  


Here's how this wall used to look:


It actually makes a HUGE difference in this room now to have the double sets of shelves - it never felt balanced to me with the painting next to it.  After a few days I knew I'd need to stain a second set of shelves stat, otherwise it would drive me bonkers.

Also, notice in the picture above how ragged the heater looks with the peeling paint?  Sanding that off and re-coating it with heat resistant primer and paint has made one of the biggest changes to me.  That peeling paint drove me absolutely nuts for the last year, so I'm happy to be able to point out how much better it's looking!



And here's a peek at the other side of the room - our pretty painting has space to breathe over there, and really shines now that it's not crowded by other stuff.

It just feels really calm and pretty.


And there's nothing like fresh flowers to make a room feel pulled together...


Not that I'm an expert in arranging flowers, but I've found a few little tricks that promise a knockout bouquet every time.

Stick to a single color palate (mixing colors can get tricky, so staying with one color - all red, all white, all blue and purple, guarantee that it won't turn out looking like a hot mess will look more professional once it's finished).

Group flowers in an arrangement by type.  This is optional, but I find I like the look better, and find more success when I group flowers this way.  Keep the large fluffy flowers together, fill in blank spots and edges with smaller fluffy flowers, fill in sparse edges with groups of smaller skinnier stalks.  For instance right now, I've got two hydrangia's grouped together taking up 1/3 of the bouquet, three extra fluffy mums together taking up another 1/3 of the arrangement, and a few stalks of snapdragons taking up the last third - all white.  And it just works.

Let the flowers drape as they would in real life. Tulips want to fall over all loosey goosey.  Let them. They are rarely going to stand up straight, so pick a vase that will accentuate them draping over the side. Don't try to force a flower to do something it wouldn't normally.  These are wise words from the Barefoot Contessa.

Cut the stems short.  This isn't a hard and fast rule - if you get long stemmed roses from your honey, keep them long - but I find that arranging shorter stems turns out a more professional looking arrangement every time.


Do you guys have any tips on arranging flowers?  I would love to know!

Taking a closer look at the shelves, you'll notice that I didn't go wild with Christmas Decor, but I did nestle in a few of my seasonal favorites... here, a few ornaments behind that handsome deer statue.


The below looks especially wintery, but actually the only addition here was the snowflake... the owl is a year round staple, as is that antler candle holder, but it does help that the coral is white to round out this little vignette.


All my old music boxes get a special place up here in December.  They are fragile, but I love them so much.


These garlands were really inexpensive from Michaels, and while I'm not hugely fond of the glitter, they look really nice woven across the top of the shelves.


Oh hello, inappropriate singing Santa!

All I'll say is that his guitar mysteriously disappeared (Kristopher!  Ahem!) and his hand that was supposed to be strumming the guitar looked like it was doing something else.  Oh my.

After he was scolded for hiding the guitar, Santa is back to being "G" rated.



So that's the updates in our dining room - in life, and for the holidays!

There are a few more updates I'd like to make in this space, but I'm really happy with how the dining room has transformed so far.  With our wedding this summer, I think my focus will likely turn to that this next year, and changes around the house will really slow down, but we've come so far in just 11 months.

I'll be posting a 2014 recap, and can't wait to get all the before and after pictures together for that.  Looking back through some older posts really illustrates how far we've come.


I will also say, I've been really trying to focus on the quality of the photographs I've been taking.  I broke out my tripod that had never been used, and I think that really helped.  I also was playing around with the settings to make sure that the light from the windows didn't blow out the images as badly as they had in the past.  I wanted to see the drapes, the trees, and the dining table.  Not one or the other.

I'm learning!  Slowly, but I'm learning.  Hoping the pictures continue to improve!


Anyway, hope you all enjoyed!  We've now gone through updates in the living room and the dining room.  What's next?  The bedroom - it's not all THAT exciting and different from our old bedroom, but we do have some new bedding in there that I'm excited to share with you all.




What are your thoughts on our dining room updates?  Of the rug?  The new chairs?  The second set of shelves?

Would love to know!

xoxo

Monday, December 15, 2014

Holiday Fireplace and a DIY Garland

Are you guys ready for some holiday house updates?????????


Let's dive right in!

The fireplace is the center of our living room, and an obvious focal point to decorate for the holidays.  I was so excited to be able to string up garlands, and doll it up this year since our old apartment didn't have a central focal point in the living room.  Everything was centered around our TV which was practical, but not the most attractive option.

As stoked as I was to decorate the fireplace, I REALLLLLLYYYYYYY wish that it had a mantle.  If you look closely, you'll notice that it's a flat facade, surrounded by a piece of crown molding, so there's no spot for long beautiful taper candles, leaning art, or cool decorative accents like that on top of it.

I've spent many hours scheming about how to create a mantle here, but with the fireplace being completely surrounded on all sides by a slab of mirror, it just won't work... unless I dare risk 7 years bad luck by breaking it... which I'm not down for. Sometimes we just have to make do with what we've got.... right??  Kind of the story of my life, but let's be honest - I'm just happy to have a fireplace to decorate this year!

When I lived here before, I always loved how we strung a pre-lighted garland across the fireplace, but after digging that garland out of storage it was looking pretty sad.  It was all smushed, and had little (if any) resemblance to real greenery.  Imagine something like this... but faded, and flattened after being stored in a box for several years....

It was time to find a new game plan for our mantle - I loved the idea of a garland, but wanted it to be super full, and really eye-catching.  And what would be more eye-catching than a bunch of gold ornaments strung together and wound up with fairy lights and greenery??  This garland DIY is super easy to pull together, so for anyone looking for a fun holiday project, this is the one for you!  In fact, the more wine you drink while working on it, the better.

May I present to you our Gold and Green(ery) Garland.  It's two separate garlands woven together to make one massive, awesome, holiday focal point.  It's sparkly - especially once the garland is plugged in at night - and a little over the top but I'm totally in love with it.

The ornament garland was a DIY project I worked on one afternoon while catching up on bad reality TV.  Nothing to get you in the holiday spirit than watching the Kardashian's bicker.


I actually tested it out last year on a smaller garland that we now have hanging in the kitchen (yep, even the kitchen got a little holiday love in 2014), and making it is soooo easy.  Look back at this post for the original instructions, but there isn't much to explain.  

Basically you need to start with a TON of ornaments - do not use glass.  They WILL shatter.  I used 4 boxes of plastic balls in assorted gold tones from Ikea... LOVE the Ikea holiday section this year.  They win the award for "best everything".  More on them later... back to the DIY.

Start with tons of balls {insert joke here}.

Get your hands on a long strand of thick wire.  Ribbon might work but I like that the wire forms to the shape you want.

Sting balls onto wire while accidentally drinking the better part of a bottle of wine and watching trashy TV.

Here's what you'll end up with:



Super technical DIY project *wink wink*

Once I had all the ornaments strung on the wire, it was time to hunt down a pretty green garland to replace our sad looking one.

I wanted one that was hefty, and that looked natural (at least somewhat).  I looked into ordering a fresh garland for about two-seconds until realizing fresh garlands in SF ran about $160.  Um, no thanks.  

Off to Michael's I went (with my coupon of course) and scored this beauty for something like $25.  I think without the 40% off coupon it was in the high $30 range.  Still, not bad for a lighted green 9' garland with pine cones interspersed and several types of faux greens in the mix.

Once I got the green garland home, I wound the two garlands around one another, and secured them to the wood molding around the fireplace with two small nails, and more of the wire that I'd used to string the ornaments.

The nails will leave the smallest of holes, and will be easy to conceal with wood putty, and a coat of white paint.


Another new addition to our holiday fireplace, is this starburst mirror.


I love a good starburst - we have one hanging over our bed as well - but this is one of the best finds of my shopping career... EVER.

Such a score!

I consider myself to be a pretty serious bargain hunter - not on the same level as those crazy extreme couponers, but I take the sale sections seriously.  As I was at the Home Depot over the weekend, wandering the aisles in search of a ceiling medallion (another story for another day), I found myself in the aisle with decorative moldings, hollow core doors, and what else... mirrors!

Easily distracted, I ventured over to the mirrors, and there, hanging on the wall was a mirror very similar to this one that I've been trying to hunt down!!  It was a bit smaller than I'd wanted, but I was intrigued.  I picked up the box below the sample mirror, and guess what?  It a box for a completely different mirror.  A sunburst mirror.

A sunburst mirror that was marked down to $6.

SIX DOLLARS.

I cannot make this stuff up.

I grabbed that box so fast, and was out of there before anyone could fight me for my $6 mirror.



Not only was it SIX DOLLARS (which I still cannot wrap my mind around), but it was bigger than the octagonal mirror I was originally admiring, and it fills out this space above the fireplace so well.

Here she is close-up - isn't she pretty??
 

I also love that the center of the sunburst is convex, so it sort of distorts the reflection.  Very cool.


It was a Christmas miracle actually.  I've been agonizing over what to hang here for a while.  The empty expanse of mirrors above and on the sides of the fireplace felt really 80's to me.  

On the one hand, all these mirrors make the room feel larger, but with no mantle above the fireplace to lean art on, place picture frames, flowers, branches... basically anything to draw the eye up, and compliment the spot above the fireplace, it was just so empty.  It needed something.

I toyed with the idea of trying to hang a large piece of art here, but wasn't loving that idea.  Every time I had Kris hold something up there it just felt odd.  I also toyed with the idea of hanging a mirror over here, but never found the right thing 


I am so thrilled with how this looks but I'm not completely sold on the ribbon that secures it to a nail above the mirror.  For now, with the holidays, it's fine, but I'm not sure if the ribbon will stay - perhaps a string of clear fishing wire or something similar would be best, so it looks more like it's mounted to the mirror, and less like it's dangling from above.

Surprisingly enough, Kris is on board with the ribbon, so if we do keep it, I won't have to worry about his complaints.

Also in the living room are several wrapped presents - I like to get them wrapped and under the tree as early as possible since they just add to the festive feel.  I'm liking the simple feel of this brown paper, and bold ribbon, and a sprig of douglas fir finishes it off so nicely!  And guess what... the branches were free! I may or may not have been scavenging the discard bins at the Christmas Tree Tent at Home Depot, but it's fair game!  The guys working the saws at the tree lot confirmed that these branches that get stripped from the bottoms of the trees are headed to the chipper at the end of the day, so I see it more as rescuing them.



And how awesome is that red cardinal ribbon??  Michaels was having 60% off their ribbon over the weekend, so 25 yards of this stuff was $3.  Yes please!!  Red cardinals and festive tartan ribbon for everyone!!!


I've been spoiling myself this year with fresh flowers only in the house, and have found that I can make hydrangeas last for a solid month, if I take care of them JUST right.  I made this arrangement feel a bit more holiday-like with the addition of woodsy greenery, and some cool burgundy branches.

Apparently hydrangeas like HOT water, with a little bleach.  Cut the stems vertically so they can soak up as much water through their woody stem, and they are good to go. I learned this little trick from an episode of the Barefoot Contessa, and I never forgot it!  Just change the water out once a week, they tend to last and last and last.  

I think my record was 7 weeks of keeping a cut hydrangea alive. #impressive



So that's our holiday mantle fireplace!  More festive updates coming your way soon, but the whole house got decked out - there's a tree, an inappropriate Santa, and a really festive dining room still to share!