Nursery Update!

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Friends, I want so badly to be a good blogger and not leave you hanging after a post like this nursery inspiration one.

 photo 20150923_085700_zps9ju595hi.jpg  photo 20150923_090004_zps741i7tad.jpg So, here’s your update! This room’s transformation from home office/junk room to nursery/home office was astounding! Dramatic! Shocking! It really was. Let me encourage you not to put off whatever project you’re considering, or all those repairs and things you might do if you were trying to sell your house, or host a party. Add the extra strand of twinkle lights so you can enjoy it now! Baby boy is not here yet, but already I’ve enjoyed the room so much—my own personal sanctuary and yoga studio—now that it’s brighter and lighter and has furniture that’s appropriate in scale.
 photo 30FA09E2-9B4F-4F97-94C3-85F8A1F2A69F_zpsrh8a43xn.jpgBefore. The room was dark blue. I don’t mind a manly dark den. (Our kitchen is navy!) But the shade wasn’t perfect and it wasn’t the feel we wanted for the nursery in any case. There was a large desk table, as well as a large, very comfortable sofa. Both of those were practical; they served their purpose. But really they were too big for the size of the room and together prevented the room from functioning its best, even though I’m glad the sofa served as a guest bed many times. Rounding out the chaos were a couple random bookshelves that we sold at the neighborhood yard sale. And I sent the large desk table back to Mama Rote’s emporium of household goods and sundries, exchanging it for a smaller wooden desk. But let’s not jump ahead!

One transformational weekend this summer, a group of laborers converged on Nashville (parents, cousins, uncle and aunt), and we/they cleared the heavy pieces from the room, painted, and picked up industrial shelves that I found on Craigslist. It’s all happening. (Name that movie.) photo 7725EDE7-5E07-4BF3-8038-4CA26980B801_zpsucduptsf.jpg

Paint. Thanks to this Emily Henderson advice—Design Mistake #3: Painting a small, dark room white—we chose an off-white neutral. We tested several different paint samples on the wall, and ultimately went with the one that Mom’s friend Beth had suggested. I know you’re supposed to paint samples on the walls to see how different colors actually look in your room, with different light at different times of day, but in the future we’d probably save ourselves grief by immediately going with whatever Beth recommends. I love the way it turned out. (The color is Pearly Gates by United Paint, but they’re out of business. Sherwin Williams looked it up and matched it for us.)

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Those wooden boxes, one that says EVERYTHING, are leftover from my grandaddy’s upholstery shop. 

Shelves. If you want to feel like all the possibilities in the world are open to you, do a Marie Kondo-style purging of books, etc. and buy some big industrial shelves. Gazing at the empty shelves will make your soul feel open and roomy. Mine did. Of course, several weeks later, the shelves are entirely full.

In my initial plan for the room, I wanted some tall shelves, like these from Ikea, fancied up with gold or another metallic. (By the way, as my cousin Nate would point out, painting something is not a “hack.” It’s painting something.) But I put it off, and Ikea shipping is outrageous, and I started looking at other options with a lot of vertical storage and an industrial feel. Lots of good possibilities. Then I lucked into some old school lockers on Craigslist. They looked pretty nasty and I figured we’d need to sand and varnish and paint or something. But when we got our hands on them, we discovered that they were pretty much just dirty. So I hired a crack team of cleaners.
 photo EAC7559A-6C55-441B-A485-C0D60760EBD6_zpspholclls.jpg photo 6D8A2D84-04AA-4B00-9991-730D1D1E65CD_zpscpdwimi5.jpg photo 83C8ADFB-CEC0-4430-907E-09838BB7C081_zpso9n3wej6.jpgThey discovered this pretty color underneath.
 photo 1A63E953-2D23-4BCF-8F86-51E7CE75CB6A_zpswerlwgxe.jpg Isn’t it killer? The color is fairly similar to what we did on these shelves a few years ago, so now it’s like we have masculine and feminine versions. I feel like we’ll use them forever in some capacity. (Check out this inspo from Pinterest!!)

After that major transformation weekend, we’ve been in a slower process of filling out the room, which in technical terms means looting and pillaging the rest of the house. Which means a domino effect of new random house projects. (Long story short, we got a new dining room table!)

 photo 54a90c59-1425-4de1-b894-31f1b1c0a1fc_zpsadxwp8zz.jpgWe’re using the same dresser that served as the girls’ changing pad, and brought the blue rocker from their room (replaced by another chair from my parents’ house) and my favorite pillow from the living room. Please note how the colors going on with this chair look like the one in one of my inspiration images! I like what I like.

I’ve done a good bit of musical chairs with art, too.
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 photo 20150923_085609_zpsrxhvla0k.jpgYou know, I’m one who doesn’t put a lot of stock into worrying about diaper cream and adequate baby supplies. The kid will need a solid sense of self, via the proper placement of a John Wayne poster (stolen from his Uncle John): totally masculine, but black and white and minimal so it’s artsy and not overly-themed.

The rug. You may remember that I wanted something with a lot of character. We were keeping an eye out for something colorful and old and just right, preferably made of wool or other natural fibers. But as the shelves were filled out with books and other items, my penchant for color was already manifesting itself and I conceded that something more neutral could be good. We continued to keep an eye out and I spent way too much time browsing these sites. Patience paid off when Beth (to the rescue! Again!) texted from one of Memphis’ best kept secrets, the Pottery Barn Outlet. She found a steal of a deal on a rug for the girls’ room, so we moved their white wool rug to the nursery.

Again, I’m so happy with the way it turned out.
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Once more. Before:

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After (from the same angle, because I’m keeping it profesh):
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And keeping the styling professional by featuring the chocolate croissant on the desk.

Fun! Thank you to all my design team and work crew!!! (And, oh yes. Come on, baby!)

P.S. I loved all these inspiration images on District of Chic: Southwestern Inspired Nursery Design.

Frame Your Story

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Not my house. Obviously.

If you’re not impressed by cheap inexpensive affordable art, I’ve got a couple of higher end recommendations, both on my wish list.

First: frames by Saw & Mitre. Earlier this year my friend’s husband resigned from his corporate job to start his own business, combining his two passions for photography and working with his hands. (“He was a carpenter, and I just figured if you’re going to follow in someone’s footsteps, who better than Christ?” Name that movie!)

Order from Saw & Mitre Frame Co., and Dave will create a beautiful, gallery quality frame to display your photo. And it will last forever, so you can switch out photos in the future—just like an art gallery!—if, say, your photog skills improve and/or your decor needs a change.

We got to chat with Dave at a friend’s wedding recently, and it was so interesting and inspiring to hear how the business is going. Already he’s connecting with some of his photography heroes, learning, and adding to the products and services Saw & Mitre offers. I asked him if my iPhone/instagram pictures would be good enough for these frames. I don’t think he answered directly (very diplomatic) . . . but he is offering wood and metal frames in smaller square sizes now!

I’m not much of a photographer, but I love following Dave’s story on his blog, and I really love the Saw & Mitre instagram account, which is inspiring on the regular. This one really got me, along with Dave’s question: “How will my grandchildren discover and see photos of me when I’m long gone? Will it be a Google Image search? Will they find an old hard drive that (hopefully) still works? I sure hope not. #printyourwork” How right he is.

Second: textiles from St. Frank. An acquaintance from college is the dynamo behind this lovely company that sells beautiful framed textiles (and now pillows!) made by artisans around the world. Of course, my favorite would be the Otomi from Mexico . . . too bad Christina didn’t have the advantage of Mama Ortega’s bargaining!

It’s really fun to look through their Tastemakers posts and Collectors pictures to see the art in place in stunning, fabulous rooms. Also, if you’re needing more Pinterest inspiration, check out their account. My favorite board is Global Chic. Or Salon Walls. OK, also, shout outs to St. Frank’s Passport to Mexico, and Saintly Blue and White. Just check it all out.

You are dismissed. Go find something beautiful in your day.

(Not sponsored; just love ‘em.)

P.S. The story of acquiring Otomi for the girls’ room here at the end of the post; and if I were forced to choose, maybe I’d use one of the photos from here or here in a Saw & Mitre frame.

P.P.S. Two of soccer’s most iconic photographs.

Awesomely Cheap (or Cheaply Awesome?) Art

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I have such a fun art secret to share! Not a secret, I guess, but something new to me that I loved so much. My friend Allison has some cool paintings at her house that I noticed. When I asked about them, she said, “Oh, those are by Steve Keene . .  . do you want one?” How generous! Little did I know.

Allison told me that Steve Keene is a Brooklyn artist (she knows him from his work in Charlottesville) who creates massive installations made up of hundreds of smaller paintings on plywood. His process is really interesting, but so is his philosophy: he wants visual art to be available for everyone, like buying a song for a dollar from iTunes. So when those installations are dismantled, the individual paintings can come live at your house! You pay $30 (plus $12 shipping) and he’ll send 5 or so medium paintings. You don’t know what you’ll get, but you know it’s folk art and it’s likely colorful (possibly bizarre).

Of course, I jumped on that opportunity pretty much immediately, and then had to wait awhile before our mystery paintings arrived in the mail. By the time the package arrived I’d become so curious and eager that I was Christmas-morning giddy as I ripped through the brown paper. And I was not disappointed. I’d emailed with Steve during the wait, so maybe because of that, maybe because of Allison, or maybe randomly, we got nine or ten paintings instead of the advertised four or five!

Then I put on my insane art curator hat and ran around rearranging and trying things out on our walls. In the end, not a lot was rearranged. But the whole process, with the surprise element, not to mention the low cost, was such fun. I might be addicted. It was like Stitch Fix for art, except less expensive. Think about it— five paintings for under $9 a piece, and in my case, $4.20 a piece! The low cost of it makes it so low risk, which I love. Don’t get me wrong: the paintings are awesome and might fit in timelessly with your collection, but if they’re not your speed, no biggie fry.

With that in mind, here’s what’s happening with ours. A few I knew immediately would be gifts (and I mean sincere gifts, as opposed to funny gifts—you’ll see what I mean in a moment), a few are on our walls,

 photo 1c117a8a-047b-468f-a007-050aac614588_zps8492c447.jpg not a staged photo, obviously

 one in particular is in the bathroom (inexpensive=don’t worry about water damage),

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and the weirdest of the bunch made a perfect post-bar exam celebratory gift for my cousin Nate.

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(Trust me, he appreciated this.)

I’m not sure how it happened along the way, but we’ve amassed a pretty fun art collection. Not super expensive collector pieces, but meaningful pieces that have some reason behind them like the colorful Memphis in May Music Festival poster, framed photographs from travels during college, this fruit painting (I love. Our most formal frame, in the kitchen. :) That’s why art is fun. My aunt and uncle gave it to us our first married Christmas.).

Though I love what we have, I realized a few years ago that most stuff on our walls was framed behind glass—prints, photos, drawings—and that we should go for more texture to round things out—actual paint, fabric, more three-dimensional hangings. Then I visited one of my good friends who lived with her husband in Charlottesville at the time. They had a small rental house, and when I walked in I said, “Wow, this is really, like, a grown-up house.” I think she had inherited some formal side tables, and had generally nice coordinated furniture, but it was the art that did it for me. In the living room they’d hung a large abstract floral painting by an artist that her family really liked. She and her sisters had gotten a discount when all of them bought paintings at an arts festival.

It was confirmed: I needed* paintings.

But, two problems with original paintings: 1) They’re pricey (you have good taste, so anything you like is bound to be super expensive). Or, 2) You don’t have an artsy background, and maybe you like something and could buy it, but you’re worried: what if it goes out of style and you don’t like it later, or maybe it’s great by itself but just doesn’t work with everything else you’ve got going on, decor-wise.

Why would you spend so much on something purely decorative (and possibly of questionable taste)?

Art should be fun, expressive, not anxiety-inducing. This is why I love Steve Keene for giving me some honest to goodness paintings on my walls. If you like folk art, you should give this a try. Even if you don’t, there’s no risk involved. Give a painting to your pilates teacher, your farmer, or your favorite barista.

Will you order some paintings?? Please report back if you do!

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 They’re not funny. They’re art. (Name that movie.)

Not sponsored. I love Steve Keene.

*Wanted. But visuals affect me, and you, too, so the need argument could be made.

Musical Beds (+ Girls’ Room Inspiration!)

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When my oldest brother Will was yet an only child and Dad was traveling a lot, Mom and Will met Dad at the airport, in the days when you could go all the way to the gate to greet incoming passengers. When Will saw Dad walk out of the jetway, he ran up happily and shouted, “Dad, nobody slept in Mom’s bed last night!”

Mama Rote is not a floozy. They’d been working on getting Will to sleep in his own bed all night. Good job, Brother!

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We’ve just gotten through a similar stage with Mary Tobin. She’s always been a champion sleeper and truly is doing great overall. (Please understand, my mom once told someone that I’m a “sleep nazi”—in other words, my standards are very high. I like to get a ton of sleep, so sue me.) Still, Mary Tobin hit a few bumps as several transitions converged . . . moving, new big girl bed, new baby in the family, a bit of potty training, new understanding of the dark and fear . . . who knows. But—knock on wood—getting into our new house with her new room, shared with sister, has helped a lot. I think things have been quieter partly because she’s scared of waking Inez up. Hallelujah.

Tell me, did you share a room with a sibling growing up? I never did because I was the only girl (read: the princess). But I love the idea and think it will be fantastic for them. At least, looking back I think it will be great, and they’ll have to learn to deal with each other in the mean time.

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Unsure about sharing.

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Getting the girls’ room all ready was also a lesson to me that I actually can be a good mover if I can motivate myself. We focused with laser-like precision on unpacking their room first to give these chickadees as smooth a transition as possible. Thanks to pre-painting and curtain hanging by the grandparents, the room was basically good to go the first night.

As we battle the disarray in every other part of the house, I’ve found myself sitting in the girls’ room whenever possible; it’s so peaceful by comparison.

Regarding decorating choices for their room: I’m doing my best to keep it simple, but it’s a struggle. We’ve got some lovely art in there, including the señorita mexicana and some prints from vintage style Mexican calendars. My new favorite is a piece of beautiful Otomi fabric that I’ve been saving for the right spot since I bought it in Mexico, thanks to mi suegra’s bargaining. I had my prices and my Spanish prepared, but after haltingly exchanging a couple of sentences with the vendor my courage failed, so I sent in the big guns: Mama Ortega.

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Let’s call the diaper pail a modern sculptural piece.

As we left the market in Cholula, she told me that the guy was so excited to sell that piece of fabric, and that his mother and sister had worked on it for five months. ¿¿QUE?? I felt immensely guilty for haggling them down (well, Mama Ortega was my bargaining agent) to such a great price for that amount of work. She quickly assured me that the guy was thrilled to sell it, that he’d go home that night and celebrate with his family, that it was quite a big sum of money for them. Phew. I could’ve dealt with colonial angst for a long time.

I love this wall hanging because it’s so charming and Mexican, but instead of the animal Otomi pattern that’s so hot right now, the flowers look like something that my grandmother could’ve had too. (The flowers are poinsettias, which are from Mexico. Did you know that?)

It doubles as a fantastic backdrop for a Father’s Day photo shoot:

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More on kids’ rooms/nurseries:

  • Examples of how to un-obnoxiously use pink in a little girl’s room. (I should be a headline writer! Clickbait!)
  • Lay Baby Lay is still one of my faves for nursery and general design inspiration. Here’s the post where I went a little nuts going through all her inspiration boards.
  • Finally, I’m [somewhat, half-heartedly] trying to follow Nashville designer Rachel Halvorson’s advice to keep it simple in kids’ rooms. This room she designed for twin girls is so lovely, and as she points out, “If you took out the artwork, and a few accessories, you’d still have a neutral palette to work with. And when they come in with their hot pink superman capes and polka dot beach balls?? There’s your pop of color.”

New Art!

Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time. -Thomas Merton

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I intended to share some new paintings from Uncle Steve this past Saturday, on his birthday. But, not unusually, things got away from me. I was telling Israel that my life this weekend reminded me too much of this immortal SNL skit and Chris Farley’s brilliant use of air quotes.

In my pregnant mom version: so maybe my house is not what you would call “clean.” I haven’t “taken a shower.” My family has no “fresh underwear.” And, sadly, as I just re-watched that video, two of Chris Farley’s also apply to me right now: I don’t “wear clothes that fit me.” I can’t “reach all the parts of my body.”

Too much information?

So . . . Uncle Steve, happy belated birthday! We love your art! Thank you!

If you know Uncle Steve, you know he’s a jack of all trades. Aside from his day job, he landscapes a “meadow-like back yard . . . full of simple pleasures” that gets featured in local magazines. Plus he’s funny and charming, friendly and approachable, making you so comfortable that you may just ask if you can use his back yard for your wedding. Or ask him to be your partner on The Amazing Race. He’s so thoughtful; he regularly calls me, or my husband, just to check in and say hello or that they’re thinking about us. Plus, he’s as handsome as Jamie Foxx.

If that weren’t enough, he’s a fantastic artist. After I saw two of his gorgeous tobacco leaf paintings last year, I had to ask him for something for our place!

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This one, called “Appalachian Memories,” I love. I don’t think his tobacco plants grew this year, so I’m not sure what type of leaves these are that create the rolling mountain landscape. Mary Tobin and I have been picking up leaves on our walks; they are just amazing to stare at. I love that in this painting, the part becomes the whole. I automatically relax when I look at it. I feel connected to the place my mom and uncle grew up, to my aunt and uncle’s house, to the land that produced these leaves, to my uncle who picked them up and created something with them, to my family.

Next, Mary Tobin received new art for her room walk-in closet nursery! I can tell you nothing about the technique used, but it adds the perfect touch of magic/fantasy/whimsy/delight to the space. Usually when hanging things in her room I offer two acceptable spots and let Mary Tobin choose where something will go. But for this one, forget about “good parenting.” (Chris Farley’s living in my mind.)

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It’s in a place of honor right above the Señorita Mexicana, whose colors complement the new painting beautifully.

 photo photo22_zps14e5bae7.jpgPlease excuse my poor photography, which does no justice to any of these!

The Mexican lady, by the way, is a Carlos Merida print that was tracked down on e-bay by Uncle Steve’s better half, Aunt Kace, after I had pinned the image on my Pinterest nursery inspiration board. I cried when they unveiled it at Mary Tobin’s baby shower. (To be fair I cry about a lot of things when pregnant; it’s official.)

Aunt Kace and Uncle Steve, what a pair you make! Thank you for decorating our house!

 

Fishmael Part II, or How To Choose Fantastic Souvenirs

Shopping in Todos Santos, Baja California Sur, Mexico

The people spoke, so Fishmael will stay for autumn! Bostonians drink water all year, apparently, and “being awesome never goes out of season.”

Clearly, the gurgling cod was a good choice. I hope we’ll use it him during dinner parties for years and years; he’s fun yet fancy; he says glug glug; he will always remind us of the trip we took when I was pregnant with Mary Tobin. All in all, a fantastic souvenir.

I’m not necessarily qualified to give retail advice, except that I love stuff too much so I’ve had to become more selective to combat my hoarder tendencies. Since I was young, when I see a collection, I feel I need every piece. (Ahem, American Girl dolls.) No one could accuse me of being a minimalist.

I’ve gotten better at thinking through what I really need and/or want, and I try to choose carefully, with the goal of only surrounding myself with things I really do like. (Not just things that I got because they happened to be there.)

When it comes to souvenirs, what’s worth buying and why? Here’s the rubric I’ve come up with for choosing a little goody to commemorate your trip to a great place. (Similar but different from my brother’s old dating philosophy: Smart, pretty, sane. Pick two.) For souvenirs, try to find something that’s all three:

  • beautiful
  • useful
  • representative

Beautiful. Ask yourself, would I want this in my house if it wasn’t a souvenir? A gurgling cod? Of course! Timeless. And I love the blue and white pottery from our honeymoon to Mexico. I’d buy it in a store today. Please don’t get something just because you feel like you have to.

Useful. What’s something you’ll always need and use? Think housewares, clothes, etc.  My best example is our comfy blanket from Paraguay, in classic white. (I admire my own restraint! That’s another tip: don’t get carried away by your exotic locale and buy a multicolor tapestry that’s going to look crazy in your house.) I still wear the earrings I got in Rome and Chile. Be careful about clothes though. My epic fail in this area was the gladiator-style disc belt I bought in Cardiff, Wales. Useful in theory, but fails in the beautiful/representative categories. Ridiculous looking. Forced it. Never wore it.

Representative. Will your souvenir be a good reflection of the place? Are they known for that type of thing? Don’t buy a sweatshirt that says St. Thomas USVI; get a nice big beach towel instead. When I studied abroad one summer in Oxford, my splurge was a nice rugby shirt in the colors of University College where I stayed. Now I love to get cozy in that thing on cool days, and remember the big park behind Univ, eating brie and apples, the school boys walking by in their uniforms, the chapel bells tolling the hour. Had I purchased a bathing suit in Oxford, however, that would not be representative.

What do you think of my system? Can you add or comment? Please share your souvenir triumphs and failures!

Kathleen: It happened in Spain. People do really stupid things in foreign countries.

Frank: Absolutely! They buy leather jackets for much more than they’re worth, but they don’t fall in love with fascist dictators.

-Nora Ephron, You’ve Got Mail, 1998