Ben’s Room

Since I left my job in May, I have been spending more time actually IN our house since we moved in a little over a year ago. Some of the rooms frustrate me, because all I see are un-decorated walls or the piles of crap in the corners. But Ben’s room is the happiest room in the house, and not just because it’s the only room I’d say was actually finished.

bensroom1

I wrote about the before way back in February when I was pregnant, and we had just started painting. From the very start, I had very clear ideas about what I wanted the baby’s room to look like, boy or girl. Gray walls, white furniture, pops of bright, bold colors. It took time to collect and make and decide on all of the various pieces, but oh! am I happy with how it turned out. And even better? As Ben grows, I can tell he’s noticing things like the bold art and bright mobile (and, okay, I have to also say that the freaking ceiling fan is his favorite thing EVER) and that makes me so happy.

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Ben’s room gets great light, which helps the bright colors really stand out. We started with gray paint, white trim, and a bright yellow closet. The crib was the first thing we had in the room (other than the beloved red desk), and I like how simple it is. (I made the crib skirt out of pillowcases.) We ended up finding the dresser and night table at Target of all places, and they are made of actual wood (which is a lot harder to find – at an affordable price – than you’d think). We’re really hoping they last a long time. The glider is a bonus because it looks modern and cool but Dan and I BOTH think it’s comfortable. That orange ottoman was a last minute addition once the glider’s matching ottoman was out of stock, and I like the extra color it adds. My mom painted that tall bookcase white, and I can already tell we’ll appreciate having some extra storage. (Ben doesn’t even know toys exist yet, and they’re accumulating pretty quickly.) I spent a LOT of time trying to find the perfect rug… and this one is exactly what I wanted. (We’ve since bought two more in other colors/sizes for other rooms in our house-and so has my sister, because the price is insane for such a nice-looking, SOFT rug).

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I made the mobile using this tutorial, which I found on Pinterest. Hanging that mobile was by far the most difficult and frustrating part of this entire project, holy hell. It’ll be a looooong time before I attempt a project with fishing line again, and even longer before I’ll be able to convince Dan to help. But it looks great, and Ben loves it, which is so awesome.

bensroom-closet

One of my favorite aspects of Ben’s room is the closet. We took the doors off and painted the inside of the closet bright yellow. (I was really nervous at first that the shade we picked was WAY TOO INSANELY yellow… but in daylight it is just right.) I think the lack of doors and the yellow make the room feel a lot bigger. The two little Expedit-like bookshelves are meant to be closet organizers, which meant they were cheap (and it’ll be easy to buy new canvas boxes to hide stuff away if we want to do that). For a long time, I was trying to convince Dan that we should hang a second rod for hanging clothes. I don’t know if it’s because we had a boy (maybe girls need more hanging storage for all their tiny dresses?) but that hasn’t seemed important since we’ve been using the room.

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I think I spent the most mental energy on the art wall, if I’m being honest. Countless hours on Pinterest bookmarking artwork, DIYs, gallery walls in other rooms. And I’m SO happy with how it turned out. The big poster print is a Conan O’Brien quote that I matted with bulletin board paper. I painted the four little canvases using washi tape and blue painter’s tape to achieve stripes (what else, I mean, really?). The balloon photo is one I took for a daily photo a few years ago, the letter b is from Anthropologie, and the whale print is from an etsy shop that I think has since closed.

bensart2

I like how the little square mirror echoes the black and white of the big poster, and Ben’s initials are painted in the same colors as the little canvases. I also covered his light switch cover in washi tape, because another little pop of color can never hurt.

bensblanket

And in a way, the whole thing started with this blanket, which I began crocheting a month or so after I found out I was pregnant. I knew all along that I’d make my baby a blanket (it’s what I had in mind when I added “crochet a blanket I get to keep” on my 33 before 33 list, actually). I bookmarked pattern after pattern, and none of them felt good enough for my first baby, somehow. But I kept coming back to this pattern, and knew it would be a way to add lots of bright colors in a non-circusy way. Ben hasn’t needed it yet, but I’m hoping he’ll love it some day.

Putting Ben’s room together was really fun, and now that we spend so much time in there with him, it feels so perfect… not just because it feels complete, but because all the color is cheerful, and the gray and white are calming. It came together better than I could have pictured, and that makes me pretty damn happy.

The Baby’s Room: Before

One of the most tangible things in this whole “hey, you’re having a baby!” business has been the baby’s eventual room. We never really had a plan for the third bedroom in our house, other than that it would be an eventual nursery… and finding out I was pregnant only a week after moving in meant we didn’t have much time to fill the room with other stuff.

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the view from the room’s doorway. I knew I wanted this to be the baby’s room because of that bay window.

When I tell people that we don’t know whether the baby is a boy or a girl, their concerns are focused on two areas: buying clothes for the baby and the baby’s room. “But how will you decorate a room without knowing whether the baby’s a girl or a boy?!” was a very frequent question. Truthfully, I doubt either Dan or I would plan a nursery totally based around the baby’s sex (all pink/purple/blue? just not our style). But I will say that it has taken some creativity to think up plans for a nursery that don’t feel slightly more girl or boy. Even if you’re not talking pink or blue, some color combinations definitely feel more “girl” or “boy” to me, and I really want this to be a happy space that works either way.

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this is the wall facing the door; we figure we’ll put the crib here. we also have to find a way to hide that damn cable moden…

The walls in the room started out a pale periwinkle blue. I knew right from the get-go that I wanted gray walls. Gray walls and white furniture, actually. I love that combination SO much I’d probably have every room in the house that way if I didn’t have a husband to keep me in check. (Or a house that didn’t really need to be painted at all when we moved in.) I convinced Dan to take the double doors off the closet, primarily to keep them from taking up half of the available wall space when open. I saw some nurseries on Pinterest that used a super vivid color on the inside of the closet, and I LOVE that idea as a way to bring in a bright color.

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so the closet’s got SOME crap in it. but much of this stuff is awesome stuff our amazing friends have handed down; it’s kinda crazy to have actual baby gear IN OUR HOUSE.

People love to ask what the “theme” of the nursery is, and while we don’t really have a theme in the way most people think of it (beachy or owls or what have you), I definitely have a general goal: mostly white and gray with LOTS of pops of vivid, primary colors. We have started painting the inside of the closet yellow, and it looks pretty awesome. I also realized that the red desk of my dreams (which has gone unused as an actual desk since I moved in with Dan) fits this theme perfectly AND would be a pretty sneaky way to store diapers. I figure we’ll bring in lots of colorful artwork, and maybe get a night table in a crazy color. I’m also working on a blanket for the baby that’s all bright colors that will hopefully tie everything together.

the baby's room (before)
the red desk of legend. also? the old paint color doesn’t look too bad in these photos. trust me, it was not cute in person.

As of this writing, we have put two coats of paint on the walls and inside the closet. We still need to paint (ALL) the trim, because for some reason, the trim in this room is off-white, despite the rest of the house having bright white trim. I’m a little daunted by that task, just because of all the cutting in and not dripping on wood floors it’ll involve… but I know it’ll be so worth it. We need to decide if we want to get some help installing an overhead light fixture or ceiling fan, and we definitely need to address the heat in the room, which is kind of … non-existent. (This room is the farthest from the furnace and significantly colder than the rest of the bedrooms. Granted, it won’t be an issue for the baby since he or she will be making his or her grand appearance at the start of summer, but we still need to figure it out.) I finally found a rug after a LOT of online shopping, which I’m super excited about. I’ve got some diy ideas for some wall art, and we’ve got some closet organizey plans in place, too. So while we maybe can’t say that things are coming together yet, we’ve started, and that is pretty exciting.

Room Tour: the Craft Room

We’ve been in our new house for five months, and are definitely feeling settled in. Most of the rooms are stuck in the same stage of setting up: things are mostly where they go, but we haven’t really started the decorating/walls/curtains stage. I’m not sure that my mind will really get to the decorating part of things for a while yet (it’s kind of occupied by a certain lettuce-sized belly occupant these days…), and I think Dan and I are both okay with that. I also like the idea of living in our house for a while before we start committing to nail holes (or another metric ton of Command strips). Still, it does mean that I don’t feel like any room is “finished” in a way that I want to share it, and that part isn’t as fun.

But! I think the craft room is pretty fantastic, so I figured I’d start there. We really did want this to end up being a craft room + guest room, and I’m glad we were able to make it happen that way.

craft room tour!
This is the view from the doorway, and it helps illustrate the problem that felt insurmountable just after we moved in (and before we upgraded our bed). No matter how many times we measured, it just didn’t seem possible to fit our old full-sized bed AND my desk in there. My old desk was my parents’ old kitchen table, butcher block and deep and amazing. But Dan brought up the idea of getting a new desk for me, and let’s face it, it wasn’t exactly difficult to get excited about the idea.

craft room tour!
We upgraded to a king-sized bed just before Thanksgiving, and it is amazing. People have been scoffing at me for years, making my 6’2″ husband sleep on such a tiny bed, but it was working just fine, partly because we planned to get a new one as soon as we moved anyway. And I’ll never, ever stop loving that bed frame (my first real furniture purchase back in 2007 when I was moving out of my parents’ house). Perhaps having it pushed up against the wall isn’t ideal, but the room doesn’t feel cramped to me, and we were so afraid that it would.

craft room tour!
And the new desk? Is working out wonderfully. It’s an IKEA Linmon table top and two Alex drawer units (which totally look like they match the rolling cabinet of drawers I had previously). I love that it’s long enough to fit an open Project Life binder, my paper trimmer AND normal work space, and that it’s shallow enough to take up less of the room. I’ve been using it for a few months now, and couldn’t be happier.

craft room tour!
craft room tour!
I’m still working with my pile/bowl/bin desktop storage method, although I have some new bins ordered that will hopefully help me be a little more organized. Having the bookshelf nearby is also really nice. Even if I filled it up REALLY quickly.

There are definitely a few projects I’d like to finish to make the room feel complete, like hanging curtains, getting another light fixture for right above my workspace, and hanging art on the walls. I also REALLY need to get a new desk chair; that infernal Jules chair is cool-looking but supremely uncomfortable. I definitely need to hang all of my Es but having more wall space has my gears turning. A big calendar? Some prints? A bulletin board or clipboards to hang art more temporarily? The possibilities are endless.

But even more than just as a craft space, I love that this room is really functioning as a guest room. We’ve had family and friends stay a few weekends here and there, and having a real room they can call their own while they’re here is so cool. Maybe we won’t always get to have a dedicated room for guests and crafts, but it’s pretty fantastic to have it for the years we will.

16. Finally Own an Expedit Bookshelf from Ikea

I have wanted an Expedit bookshelf from Ikea for a LONG time. Something about the perfectly symmetrical squares is just so appealing to me. I haven’t had a legitimate need for a new bookcase in a long time, because the amazing, perfect ones I bought from Pottery Barn back in 2006 have been so amazing. I added this to my 33 before 33 list anyway, because I knew we wanted to buy a house, and how could we not find space for one new bookshelf in a new house??

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But when we realized that those perfect bookshelves were about 3/4 of an inch too wide for their intended location in our new house (despite my careful measurements to account for the light switch, thermostat, and power outlet! turns out the baseboard was enough to bump them. sigh), I recognized my chance. We bought not one but TWO Expedits during our Ikea trip back in early fall, and then the waiting began. First, for the boxes to be delivered (because we bought more than we could fit in Dan’s car, naturally) and then for the time to assemble all of this furniture we bought.

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The Expedit didn’t seem too bad, as Ikea assembly goes, but MAN did it require muscle to get some of those pesky screws in. Luckily, Dan’s not a weakling like his wife, so we did eventually get both shelves assembled. I gazed at the one in the living room, empty, for weeks before we mustered the energy to start going through books.

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I didn’t really anticipate how many more books I could fit on my old shelves, so there was a lot of sifting and decision making as I unpacked (and re-color-coded, because OBVIOUSLY I’m never abandoning that). We ended up with 3-4 boxes of books left over (because I can’t get rid of books), which was really okay with me, because yes, I suppose I should still keep those random YA books I bought when I worked at Borders, or those classics that I read in high school… but do they need to be on display prominently? No, probably not. (Confession: some were definitely still on display only because the color filled in a section nicely.)

#16. Finally own an Expedit bookshelf from Ikea

But seeing the shelf finally full of our rainbow books, happily in view from my spot on the couch at night? Is pretty fantastic.

The second Expedit is a 1×5 unit that’s now living in the craft room. I was surprised at how quickly I filled it up. But I love how it captures my favorite things all individually: cameras, yarn, and scrapbooks.

#16. finally own an Expedit bookshelf from Ikea

So this list item is very happily complete.

Oh hi, 2014.

looking in

2013 was by far the biggest year of my life. We didn’t really set out to, but we ended up cramming about as many Life Events as we could in one calendar year. It was a huge, unforgettable year, full of changes big and little, and in a way, I’m a little sad that it’s over. Just because it was the year we did so many awesome things.

4.52 :: the forest for the trees

Obviously, marrying Dan was 2013’s high point. Because so many other big things have happened since then, it seems like a million years ago already. People love to ask how married life is, and to be honest? It isn’t all that different, except for this undeniable sense of contentment. It was one of the best days either of us can ever remember, and sometimes I wish I could go back and live it again because it was just so happy. I’ve even gotten mostly used to the new last name; I thought it would take longer, for sure.

cider and Indiana Pale Ale

I finally started feeling settled in my new-old job, and Dan moved into a new position at his company. He’d been searching for a good fit for a long time, and while I know as well as anybody that switching jobs is never easy, I’m awfully proud of him.

at last, greenness

We finally took our first real vacation together in June, which was something we both needed SO badly. With Dan’s job-switching stress, and the absurdly intense stress of our house hunt, it was so amazing to get on a plane with my favorite person and just escape everything and everyone for a week. I don’t know if I’d recommend to others to delay their honeymoon as long as we did; it was so hard to have to wait so long. But the one unexpected benefit (other than the obvious one: being in freaking paradise) was that it felt like the wedding phase of our lives got stretched out just a liiiiittle bit longer.

Antiguan beach

Buying a house was not fun. We did not enjoy the process even a little. We did get some hearty laughs at some of the places we saw, don’t get me wrong … but holy hell did it suck. Even after we fell in love with the house we ended up buying, the inspection/negotiation/closing process made it hard to relax and believe it was really going to happen up until we had the keys in our hands.

house hunting adventures

Getting settled felt like it took a long time, but now that we ARE settled, we both love our house so much. We feel really at home here, and we have so much space. We took some time and got some furniture that fits really well where we needed it, and other than getting some decorations and curtains hung, it feels like we actually LIVE here. Like we’re going to stay a while, or something. And that feeling? Is so, so good.

what can I say, he's an artist

And as if getting married and buying a house weren’t big enough deals, we ALSO found out I’m pregnant on the first day of fall. And even when it’s something you’re hoping for, it’s hard not to be blown away seeing that plus sign. The rest of the year was a blur of tiredness, disbelief, awe, and hope.

snowy pines

So if you’ve been following along, in 2013, I acquired a husband, a house, a pregnancy, and a kitten. I don’t know how I got so stinkin’ lucky. The roads to each of those things were a little bumpy at times, which means I feel even luckier to be here, with so much goodness at the start of the new year.

Yep, she climbed the tree.

It’s hard to think of anything but our impending baby when I look forward to 2014. It’s finally hitting us that yes, we are actually going to have an actual baby in May, and that yeah, maybe we should start… preparing, or something. Having wanted to have a baby for most of my life, I am finding it basically impossible to comprehend that in a few short months, it’ll be really real. But it will be. 2014 will be a year of challenges and impossibly huge love and wonder and learning and forever changes. I’m going to need to be brave and resilient and flexible. But most of all, in 2014, I’ll become a mother. Watch Dan become a father. Finally get to meet this little baby of ours. Even though I still can’t quite believe it, I can’t wait. It’s gonna be so awesome.

Decorating Our New Place

I have been pondering how to decorate our new house for Christmas for longer than is probably normal. I definitely scouted each house we toured during the house hunt for the prime Christmas tree location, that’s for sure. (And our house had a vote against it solely due to its lack of mantle!) Once we moved, I started warning Dan that the lights were going to be crazypants this year. I mean, it’s basically required, with a staircase like ours!

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Dan says having two trees turns our house into a department store; I have too strong of a sentimental attachment to this little white tree to keep it packed away. (I’ve had it now for five years, and love it a little more each year, even though I bought it as a joke. The year before that I had a very, very sad Charlie Brown tree.)

But the exhaustion of early pregnancy took away a lot of my steam. Suddenly, the idea of buying a real tree seemed insurmountable and full of even more to dos – we’d need more lights and a stand; we’d have to vacuum the needles and water it… And since I’m trying to be easier on myself, it seemed like buying a fake tree wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. Even if I have historically been EXTREMELY snooty about fake trees and certainly never intended to actually own one. So we bought a 7.5 foot white tree; if it’s white, it certainly isn’t pretending to be a real tree.

our tree, 2013

I have to be honest here, because truthfully? Other than the tree, “decorating for Christmas” to me means lights. In as many locations as possible. So many that you can avoid using the room’s real lamps. I didn’t use all of my lights this year, because I could tell Dan was hitting his limit… but not before I achieved the desired lightsplosion.

decor

I have two favorite areas this year:

cards (and the banner Dan tried to prevent me from buying)

our stockings

The fireplace – because I adore our stockings (and the tiny plaid one I bought for Luna) and because I absolutely love how our Christmas cards look hanging on the blank wall above the fireplace.

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And the staircase up to the second floor. I wrapped the bannister first with silver tinsel garland, and then with colored lights. It’s impossible to photograph, but the tinsel+lights go all the way up the stairs, along the hall, and around to the wall right above the front door. It’s so freaking happy.

I leave you with some extraneous bokeh, because what’s the point of having so many lights without taking too many photos like this?

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And lots of wishes for hot cocoa, sitting by the lights, watching Christmas movies (…or James Bond movies, if you’re like me and think only of 007 at this time of year) and lots of coziness. Even if it’s going to be record-breakingly warm here in NJ this weekend.

Good Things

  • pink fuzzy slippers from the moment I get home until I get into bed
  • turning down all invitations for this weekend, which qualifies as good (rather than lame) because it means we will have all weekend to make some house progress (unpacking and rainbow-ifying books! maybe possibly setting up the craft room! figuring out the 15 paint cans the previous owners left us in the garage so we can paint over the patched hole the couch made in the basement staircase!)
  • I’m reading SO much lately. (I especially loved Birthmarked. And am cautiously optimistic about Allegiant, which I’m about halfway through.)
  • the smell of fall leaves
  • looking SO forward to a sleepover with two of my best girls in a few weeks
  • dark, moody nail polish
  • the soon-to-be mine orange Filofax. Organizing nerdery, here I come!
  • coming home to the porch light on (because Dan gets home from work earlier than I do)
  • thinking up ways we can decorate our new place for Christmas
  • and how we’ll (maybe) (hopefully) get a real tree for the first time ever this year (while also finding a Place of Honor for the Little White Tree of Legend)
  • and how I keep telling Dan that I’m going to “decorate the SHIT out of this place for Christmas” and he looks at me veeeery warily