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.

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Let the fun begin! Or, baby boy nursery inspiration.

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Yeehaw!

We are expecting another baby—a boy this time! “NO,” I said when the ultrasound technician told us. Disbelief. (You probably aren’t surprised that I had neither the will nor the desire to come up with some kind of clever gender reveal thing.)

To tell you the truth, the utmost issue in my mind re: Bebé Tres—aside from worrying about what in the world little boys wear, and fearing the inevitable urine sprayed in my face—is the nursery. I’ve been having a pretty good time brainstorming and playing [mental] tetris with furniture arrangements.

To get you up to speed: we are in a charming little bungalow in a charming little Nashville neighborhood. The girls are sharing a room, and so we have the office/third bedroom available for the new little dude. I hate to admit that this “home office” has been steadily slip-sliding into junk room status. (Do you have a junk room? Please tell me about it in the comments!)

So I’m excited for a fresh start. Redemption time, baby.

I decided that until we learned the sex of Bebé Tres, I’d be content with gathering ideas and brainstorming (i.e. Pinterest-ing hardcore) before springing into action. (Maybe springing isn’t the most exact term. Plodding into action?) I’ve been following Nashville designer Colleen Locke’s blog, Trot Home, where she opens a window into her process, especially the step of dreaming and scheming before narrowing down your options and deciding on your direction (which she discusses in this post in particular).

In that spirit, I’ll share some of the inspiration images I found.

[The picture at the top of the post is one I’ve had on my Pinterest baby baby board from the beginning, from Abbey Nova’s Upper West Side apartment.]

Here’s one that’s awesome and patriotic (though I’d be in trouble with Mama Rote if I didn’t point out that the flag’s field of blue ought to be on the viewer’s left):

flag baby nurseryWe have a framed Springsteen poster I gave to Israel when we were dating that could be used to similar effect.

I love this clean, white look with the oriental rug:

nursery white walls

A similar feel:

Amber Interiors nurseryBut then I saw this office tour (Sarah Vickers’ and Kiel James Patrick’s shared space):

Sarah Vickers officeSarah Vickers office

I really dig the green, and the layered, collected vibe.

(And I forgot to say that I’d like to keep a small office space in the nursery: at least a small desk for laptop, the printer, small filing cabinet.)

More delicious greens:

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Yum. And so, the time has come (the walrus said), to make decisions.

I scientifically evaluated my Pinterest board, and saw that my two directions were the white and the green, using a rug with character in either scenario. I’ve been reading Montessori stuff about simplifying the kid’s environment (not to mention Marie Kondo!); and considering that it’s wise for me to keep it simple (stupid), I decided to go with the white, clean walls; anchored with some kind of awesome, beautiful rug; natural wood and white furniture. (And I need not tell you, many pops of color.)

I’d love an oriental rug,

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or maybe a southwest/Mexican feeling one.

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I’m hereby sending this wish into the universe. (The room is about 11×10, in case you have the ideal rug for me.)

Which direction calls to you? Green or white? Perhaps my soul is an old British study, while my inner parent longs to be clean California cool.

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.

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.”

A Decorating Idea for Crazy Hoarders

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If you’re like me, you sometimes love, sometimes hate to throw things away. I feel so satisfied after clearing stuff out, but on the other hand, I just love things, especially old things and memories. And I love that smug feeling when I’m able to pull out that random dish, hat, book—whatever—to use at the perfect time. I loved growing up in a house where you could find anything. In high school, if we needed an item for a skit, video, or activity, my friends would say, well, the Rotes probably have that. And we did: from wigs and costume clothes, to arrowheads, to books, to a (non-working) motorcycle in our garage, which is just an entirely different story, having to do with my oldest brother, my dad, and which one had the higher level of testosterone.

These days, I’ve grown better at simplifying. I try to make good decisions about what’s necessary and what’s clutter, and I try to be sure that whatever new item we acquire is something that we love (or is really useful—see this post about good souvenirs). (And, let’s be honest, things that can’t fit in our apartment I ship off to—you guessed it!—my parents’ house!)

But as much as I like an uncluttered life, I hate when good things go to waste. I think it’s from Dad. If you know him, you know that he doesn’t own a polo shirt other than those he received in swag bags at golf tournaments. (They’re perfectly good!! Why buy others?) For Christmas last year, Israel and I just saved up all the free promotional items we’d received from work, fundraisers, etc. and gave them to Dad: pens, notebooks, shirts, coffee mugs, keychains, handcrafted souvenirs from a delegation from Guatemala.

Some of the worst offenders in the area of swag that you’ll never use are lapel pins. Unless you work for the organization, or it’s an American flag (because, ‘Merica), will you really wear it? They just seem to be a waste of resources. I don’t even have lapels.

BUT don’t let this cause you anxiety! I’ve found the perfect solution. Toss the backs and use your lapel pins as push pins! When I appointed myself as Israel’s office decorator, I found several commemorative lapel pins among jars of coins and drawer dividers and abysses of forgotten paper and business cards. Repurposed on his bulletin board, they’re functional and create a built-in professional scrapbook.

So I feel somewhat crazy to blog about this, but it’s this kind of epiphany that really makes my day sometimes. Is that pretty sad, that I’ll go to such lengths to feel good about hoarding? Or will you go get your secret stash of lapel pins and implement them on your bulletin board, STAT?

P.S. To be clear, I draw a pretty strict line about what’s appropriate office decor versus home, but that’s another post another day. For now just know lapel pins, the swinging hips Elvis clock, and the Bruce Springsteen poster fall under office.

P.P.S. This year for Christmas, we got my dad a goat. For the gentleman who has everything.

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!

 

How to Style a Coffee Table, toddler version

Ours is like this, but different. Source: brunchatsaks.blogspot.com via Josie on Pinterest.

I enjoyed this short tutorial (with video) by Cupcakes and Cashmere about setting up your coffee table in an attractive, effortless looking way. (Hat tip: Long To Love’s Friday Favorites.)

To make it work for us, I followed some of her steps, and made some minor modifications.

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Start with a stack of hardcover books. Three books usually work well. Play around with it to see what looks good, with the largest on the bottom. Go for picture books, not novels.

Easy. We’re at no loss for hardcover books that are picture heavy. I went with some colorful choices.

Choose books with varied subjects. Our selections were mostly animal focused in content—instead of, say, impressionist art, old New York, vintage fashion, or Ansel Adams photography.

Next, select a tray. I switched out the tray for an indestructible bowl. (It’s also important that this bowl can function as a funny looking hat when we find ourselves putting on dinner shows for Mary Tobin.) If you have an indestructible tray, go for that. For us it worked to sub the bowl for the tray, because the tray is supposed to corral all of your objects from the next step. . .

On the tray, place fresh flowers, along with objects from around your home that will be a delight to the senses.

Toddler version: nix all of that. No flowers, candles, matches, or sharp rocks.

In the bowl we’ve got colorful blocks. Who knows? Your adult guests may enjoy them as well. If we had some attractive Waldorf-esque wooden toys, that would’ve been nice.

And, let’s be real, here’s how my clever arrangement devolves on a normal day:

coffee table real life

But it’s easy to put back into place!

My advice is tongue-in-cheek, but I am not making fun of this video; I really did enjoy it. I was cracking myself up as I tried to follow the steps as well as I could given our circumstances. (And I hope my attempt amuses you, too . . .)

I do love it when Mary Tobin’s toddler world and our grownup world coexist peacefully and as smoothly as is reasonable. That has meant:

  • For baby stuff: limiting the amount of it, choosing things that I like the look of, and having alright looking storage for it.
  • For adult stuff: limiting the amount of it (ackk), and putting a lot of things away for now, or at least out of reach and out of the Mary Tobin zone.
  • In general, getting rid of superfluous stuff (which is so hard for me!).

Stuff stuff stuff! It also helps that I’m OK with bright colors.

Side note: I’m thinking of painting this coffee table. Any suggestions?

What’s on your coffee table right now?