Thursday, April 30, 2015

The One Room Challenge // Week 5

It's Thursday! So that means we just closed out Week 5 of The One Room Challenge, a trademarked room makeover event I'm participating in along with 150+ bloggers.  This is the third time I've participated in the event, hosted by Linda of Calling it Home. Link back to see my previous room reveals for Fall '14 and Spring '14

I'm happy to report that there was a lot of progress made on my husband's office makeover this week. Recall, my plan is to infuse some spirit into a room that had largely been previously left unattended to pick up any odds and ends that did not fit elsewhere in the house.  This room is shaping up to be a truly modern industrial masculine retreat where he can be inspired as he works from his home office.

I just completed one of the biggest projects scheduled for this particular makeover.  I mean, talk about taking it down to the wire for a Week 5 update. I just turned this baby right side up in the wee hours of the night to finally see the fully finished desk I built from scratch. Well... ok, I had a little help from my friends. Cut to NINE separate trips to Home Depot to wrap this one up. I also borrowed my husband's muscles for help tightening all the pipe fittings. 

The base of the table was built from galvanized plumbing pipe, sprayed black. I went with a 1 1/4" pipe for the version I drafted. If I had to do it over again, I might have gone with the 1" pipe as it would have been a little easier to work with (these pipes are cumbersome and heavy folks!). When you get your pipe cut by Home Depot, they will automatically thread it for you as well so that you can screw it together with your joints, caps and flanges. I read up tons before I attempted this project and knew going in that the threading would be my biggest obstacle. It takes some maneuvering to make sure you end up with the same height on all four legs. My initial measurements also landed me with a counter-height table, so those pipes had to be re-cut. Luckily, the guys at Home Depot were happy to oblige. Lots of learnings on this one. 

For every challenge, there is also a success. I am so proud of my first solid table top, built from five separate pieces of lumber I had cut down at my local mill. I glued it up, filled, sanded and stained it before finishing it with poly to absorb all the wear and tear my husband will undoubtedly give it in the years to come. This is solid my friends and smooth as but-tah! I tested various stains and was really happy with the warm hues in Varathane's 'Provincial'. 

Likewise, I made some progress on the shelving system that will eventually showcase my husband's collectibles. Rather than use the MDF typically paired up with this simple rack and bracket system, I had 12" shelves cut to the lengths I needed and then sanded and stained them to compliment the desk.

Finally, the window treatment is now complete. I hacked my favorite go-to Ikea curtains with some grosgrain ribbon at the base. I went with the off-white to keep things bright and clean against the contrasting charcoal brick wall. Using some fusible fabric tape and my trusty measure, I had these babies hung in just 2 hours. From where I sit, when you're running fast and furious in a 6-week design marathon, it's always nice to throw a quick results project into the mix for continued motivation. 

Can you believe it? The reveal is just one week from today! Be sure to check back next week to see the finished design in its entirety. I have a hard time keeping a secret though and you'll likely see some sneak peeks over the weekend on Instagram. Are you following along?

Catch up on previous weeks here:

Be sure to pop back over to Calling it Home and give my blog-mates some support as they cross the finish line on their own designs.


Thursday, April 23, 2015

The One Room Challenge // Week 4

I spent the final evening of Week 4 of The One Room Challenge sliding around the perimeter of my husband's soon to be made over home office, painting out trim and baseboards. This stretch of the ORC is always a little sticky. Fatigue and doubt typically bring some of the excitement from the earlier weeks to a grinding halt. The bank account begins to dwindle while receipts pile up on the kitchen table. It's also usually right about now where I make belated decisions on product orders and subject myself to spending the final two weeks chewing my nails, anxiously hoping boxes will arrive in time for install. Having done this twice before, I know what I'm in for at this stage of the game and have learned to embrace it as the calm before the storm. Slippers and chardonnay help as well.

The truth is, Week 4 is typically boring. For me, I find that I'm still laying the groundwork for all the colorful pretty, which in my house, means I'm still seeing things largely in black and white.  I did manage to get the brick wall painted out in my favorite dark and moody charcoal. I'm super pleased with how this turned out. It's exactly what I envisioned and appears as though it's been here all along.

Aside from the painted brick wall, the windows are another transformative update in the room. I carried the paint job we've completed in other parts of the house into my husband's office and painted out the aluminum frames in black satin enamel. The result, a dead ringer for the steel case windows I've so desperately wanted to install for quite some time. I can't wait to show you... 

Adding both height and dimension to our square white box is the gallery wall, now taking shape above the credenza. We'll skip the laminate shelves that usually go hand in hand with this type of system and use real wood as a contrast to warm up all the black and white currently found in the room. 

 These lights are currently on order. Crossing my fingers that they clear customs in time for the install and photos in Week 6.

 So that's where I am as I bring you the latest update on my husband's masculine office make over. 
As a refresh, you can view where I've started from and progress in preceding weeks here:

I post updates throughout the week on Instagram. Follow along for some behind the scenes outtakes.

I'm not alone in this! There is a great community of 150+ bloggers also participating in this edition of The One Room Challenge, a trademarked online makeover event created by Linda of Calling it Home. Please be sure and stop by and give my blogmates some encouragement in one of the hardest weeks of the series.


Tuesday, April 21, 2015


With any good party, comes a good hangover. Well, if there's any merit to my party philosophy, this one was one for the books. You see, it's been a whole 38 days since I hosted this shindig for my husband's 40th birthday and I'm just now feeling like the haze has lifted enough to break it down for you all. The truth is, I've been anxious to tell you all about it because it was one of those rare, near perfect occasions where most everything fell into place exactly as I had envisioned and a good time was had by all. The hangover I speak of arrived promptly the next morning,  manifesting with equal parts exhaustion and apprehension that I properly share the details here, lest you miss out on the truly magical vibe of the night. 

Pool Party, Cocktail Party

I had planned this one out for quite some time in my little head, refining and calibrating all of the little details I would spend hours and days creating to bring the pomp and circumstance of East Coast prep, privilege and tradition to life here in our casual West Coast home. I did a lot of my own research as I worked feverishly to build out, source and buy all of the little effects that would eventually set the tone for the evening. In the end, it came together with a truly handmade, vintage spin that I was quite proud of on a swelteringly hot California evening in March. 

I'm a big believer in setting the tone for guests before they ever walk through the door to a party. Invitations go a long way. But for this event, we asked guests to dress in their finest prep attire, keeping it flexible to include anything golf, yacht, tennis or equestrian club related. While I worked out the background details for the party, our partygoers worked on their fashion, in essence becoming part of the decorative backdrop itself when we all came together. I always say build up and anticipation go a long way to creating a successful party and as it turns out, planning out what we were all going to wear worked to stretch out our timeline beyond just a 5 hour event.

 I'm a big do-it-yourself-er when it comes to hosting a party. Looking back at our most recent events, I can easily make out a formula to my "brand" of event - 60-75% handmade, 25-40% store-bought or hired in. It's true that I like to control the outcome as much as possible to gel with the vision percolating away in my little brain, but I'd also argue that a lot of the work I take on is driven by my own budget. It's hard for me to rationalize the spend when I think I might be able to create or do something myself that even comes close to what I'm envisioning. Cut to hours and hours of singular focus and many, many trips to Home Depot, my retailer of choice when it comes to creating a party backdrop. But, if I'm being completely honest, I enjoy every darn minute of it - don't let the bags under my eyes tell you otherwise. I wouldn't trade it for anything.

Spring Rolls

Cheese Platter

Ceviche Shooter

For my husband's bash, I lined our entire kitchen in smooth, tongue and groove cedar planks to create a neutral, masculine base on which I built a multi-tiered food buffet, comprised of single-serving hors d'oevres on silver spoons and platters. With most of the staging already complete well in advance, I was free to spend two full days on food prep and flowers. Though loaded with plenty of variety, the prepared food was relatively simple by design, allowing me to make most of it well ahead of our start time and keep me free from standing in the kitchen all night. For all the work, I was free to enjoy this party you guys with the guest of honor and that meant so much.

Tray Passed Appetizers

Dessert Bar, Donut Bar

I served almost 100 party guests, utilizing several stations to maintain both flow and impact. I staged the dessert bar in the entry-way, because let's face it- first and foremost, everyone always wants to see what's for dessert. As guests continued on into the house, they were greeted by a cheese presentation before they reached the primary food display using all three counters of our U-shaped kitchen. 

Several beverage stations beckoned beyond the patio, maintaining motion while keeping liquids outdoors where they could be easily mopped up if needed (this was a party after all!). My mom and I made custom linens for all of the pub tables throughout the party, embellishing them with preppy decorative ribbon borders. The best part, no returns.  For a fraction of the cost (albeit some sweat equity), these are ours to keep for the next party. 

Scotch and Beer Tasting
 My husband makes a damn good cocktail- of any sort. But I wanted to make sure he had the night off. So I stocked several bars with just about anything a guest would want and instructions on how to build out several custom-cocktails I created befitting our theme, cocktails with names like "The Haa-vad" and "The Handsome Dan" (recipes to come in a future post!). There were craft beers and plenty of scotch for tastings as well. 

The outdoor bars were staged with old photos found online and on eBay. Many of these photos pre-dated 1950, lending a bit of a vintage patina to our modern day interpretation. I pulled frames from other parts of the house to display artwork and photos, creating a men's club feel to the covered poolside bar. Authentic Ivy League Pennants and painted wood rowing paddles also helped to create that feel. There was lots of wood and leather and of course old silver trophies, pulled from my flea and thrift store jaunts throughout the party, which played well into our theme.

Our crescendo moment came with the cake presentation. It's an important moment of any birthday celebration, but I wanted a cake to mark 40 good years to be something extra special. Cue a presentation complete with fireworks and pretty girls (all our sisters!). It was a VIP moment for sure and these are the sparkly photos I look back on and get a little thrill remembering how much fun that night was.

VIP Sparklers

 We are party-people people and you know what, we like to dance. I was pretty tickled to find some old photos from a famous weekend-long dance party that actually took place at Princeton in 1960.  I blew up some grainy photos and mounted them on insulation board sourced from, you guessed it- Home Depot. These were light in weight enough to hang from fishing line along our windows around the dance floor. And yes, we were crazy enough to ditch all of our furniture and store it for nearly two weeks to allow ample set up time ahead of the event.

My home office was outfitted with a photo booth and props that were well utilized throughout the night. Guests were able print off a copy of their photo strip and take home a souvenir from the night.
Pool Bar

Fire Pit, String Lights, Cocktail Party

I put a lot of myself into this one, as sort of a love letter to my husband. Our guest of honor is still reminiscing nightly about his big birthday bash, so I count that as the biggest measure of success. I have to say we had one hell of a night and honestly we have the best friends and family - always willing to show up and make even our smallest parties a proper celebration.   I hold this one close to my heart as one of my favorites yet. 

There is still so much more to share! Look to some future posts focusing on recipes and some other fun effects that gave this one a little extra... well, something. 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The One Room Challenge // Week 3

I even surprised myself with this one.  Reading the tea leaves in my recent postings, you may have already had a feeling I might figure out way to work a brick wall into this season's One Room Challenge. Lo and behold, here we are in Week 3 of 6 and suddenly I'm springing this one on you. What a jerk, huh? I played coy and did not include an inspiration image, nor mention it previously when discussing my strategy.  Undoubtedly, you're sitting there scratching your head wondering how my design scheme could have gone off the rails- and with faux paneling no less!  But let me assure you, that this train is on the right track.

You see, I've actually been mulling over this project for quite some time now, trying to gather up the guts to just do it. I had all the same reservations you probably would have about putting faux brick into our home. But there I was, standing in line last week at Home Depot with three panels on my cart and I finally had an epiphany that seemed to just part the clouds and make it all make sense. 

I gave myself an out. Instead of adhering the paneling to our drywall,  I figured we'd nail it directly to the studs, thereby minimizing risk, damage and investment if we got it on the wall and came to the conclusion that my husband and I hated it. Turns out, we didn't hate it. 

The faux paneling we purchased was considerably more substantial than the paneling I thought would be available. It's thick, course and crusty and honestly, very stone-like in texture and wouldn't you know it, it cut like butter with our skilsaw. Still, I had my doubts. I also had my doubts, even as we hung it up on the wall and surveyed the seams that would eventually need to be filled in order to play the part of an authentic brick surface. 

But any doubts and fears were set to rest just as soon as it was filled, sanded and painted. 
It's a beaut.

The purpose of this redesign for The One Room Challenge is to give my husband a more inspiring and cohesive room to work from each day. It occurred to me that a workspace is the perfect occasion to think out of the box design-wise. I think realizing that helped me get over myself and any prior inhibitions I had with this project. And it's good guys... as I hit publish on this post, its already light years ahead of what you see now. It's still in construction phase and I'm already catching myself standing in the doorway, staring at it.  It's not the real thing, but I dare to think we might have even bought ourselves some more mid-century design cache for our little 1967 Rancher. Who knew?

Previous Progress:

The One Room Challenge is a 6-week, semi-annual trademarked design event, created and sponsored by Linda of Calling it Home. I'm participating in the Thursday link up along with some of the finest design bloggers in the land. Be sure to stop in at Calling it Home and see all the good work that's being done out there in blogland. 

I'll also be blogging in between posts with more updates. Follow along!


Thursday, April 9, 2015


We're moving into Week 2 of The One Room Challenge, a trademarked makeover event created by Linda of Calling it Home. I'm participating in a weekly link up event each Thursday for six weeks, during which time I will share with you my plans and progress to makeover my husbands home office into a polished, masculine home office. 

Last week, I revealed the space in its native state. Today, I'm sharing my vision for the room and the design components that are currently influencing my direction for this design.

In week 2, I'm busy making some decisions around the basics including the overall color palette for the room. It's important that the direction really marry up with the other rooms in our house while being a standout space that really speaks to my husband's tastes and needs. We'll be bringing in some of the other colors used elsewhere in the house - like Benjamin Moore's White Dove and will play up some of the yummy warm wood accents that have also been woven into other rooms. However, while we've gone light and airy in most of the rooms we've finished up at Holtwood House, there will very likely be a shift toward a darker palette in the made-over office. Another way this room will be distinguished will be in the coziness we'll achieve through accent pieces and accessories. I'm notoriously spare when it comes to accessorizing elsewhere in the house, but one of the priorities of this redesign will be to curate his collection of cool artifacts. 

In concepting the room's scheme, I've been influenced by the re-purposed functionality I'm seeing in more industrial spaces as well as the charm and nostalgia found in traditional Gentlemen's Lounges and English Countryside homes. The finished design will also see some influence from modern Americana- certainly through the artwork selections that will eventually line the walls.
 Beyond the palette, I've been considering what already exists in the space and have made some decisions about what should stay and go. We'll be utilizing the existing credenza, which serves the utilitarian purpose of housing electronics and supplies. The shelving planned to sit above it will gain us some extra real estate in the room for display purposes. 

The current desk was never intended as a forever piece. In fact during assembly, we broke one of the drawers and have never repaired it. It's boxy and has become a visual obstacle in a rather small room, so we are looking to replace it with a more open design like the options up for consideration above.

A snapshot from the doorway highlights many of the updates we are looking to achieve by Week 6. The current door situation is a bit curious with its old hardware, including a key-only deadbolt installed by the previous owner who also used this room as his office (just one of the leftover oddities and obstacles that we'll have to overcome in this room). Because of the deadbolt situation, we'll likely have to change out the door as well, so I've added that to the punch list.

Week 3 will be all about demo and side projects. Just as I did with the my first and second ORC rooms, I have several DIYs planned for this space as well. So be sure to check in next week on our progress! Of course, I'll also be Instagramming out takes in between blog updates. Are you following along yet?

Past Updates:

* My blog-mates are up to all kinds of clever design mischief as well! Be sure to check in and cheer them on over at Calling it Home.

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