Cool or creepy?

Bookshelves

One thing our home is lacking is bookends. I know. It’s tragic. You pity me, don’t you?

I will admit that as our bookshelves are filling up, there is less and less need for bookends. On many shelves, the books now go end to end, and I have a hard time squeezing in the decorative objets that I want to display.

However, I am still on the hunt for some bookends. So far, I’ve found them hard to find.

I’m only looking casually at thrift stores, so this hasn’t been the most active of hunts. I don’t want them to be super kitschy. I also want them to be cheap–hence, thrift store.

I came across this hand bookend last week. I immediately picked it up, but then I second guessed myself. Was it creepy?

Hand bookend

I bought it anyways.

Even if it is creepy, I think it works with Matt’s Stephen King collection.

Hand bookend

What’s your vote? Creepy? Or cool?

Finding a home for a favourite table

Drop zone in the front entryway

Do you have a drop zone in your house? It’s one of those handy areas, usually near the entry, where you can “drop” things as you come in. Mail, keys, purse, receipts, stray paper.

Our drop zone has been set up for a long time, but I realized recently that I’d never shared it with you.

Maybe because I don’t consider this spot “done.” I continue to mull over the pieces I used in this space–and if we ever proceed with my big reno plan to move the front door, the drop zone will definitely relocate.

However, our drop zone is a great example of two of my favourite home decorating lessons: 1) buy what you like and you’ll find a way to make it work 2) use what you have. So despite thinking of this layout as temporary, it deserves a moment in the spotlight.

The standout piece is the table. This is my very first solo auction purchase. Usually I went to auctions with my parents and my Dad bought for all of us. Then one day my brother and I headed out to an auction just the two of us. When the table came on the block, I bided my time and then jumped in. I had $60 as my cutoff and went one more. I got the table for $65. (Auction lesson: most people will pick a round number for a cutoff. If you can go one more–just one more, don’t get carried away–you might be the winner.)

Carved wood table

I can’t remember exactly when I bought this, but I might have been in university–maybe even high school. For years my parents moved it around their house, trying to fit it in with their furniture.

Even when I moved out, Matt and I didn’t have a spot for it in our first house. But when we moved to the farm, this little wall was the perfect dimension for this table. See what I mean about buy what you like and it will work out?

I am totally a child of the nineties. Remember dark red cherry-ish wood? Back then, I totally envisioned a house with cherry kitchen cabinets, a cherry sleigh bed with matching dresser and nightstands. I love this dark red wood.

But one of my stumbling blocks with this table is the dark red wood. I’m not sure it really works with our house. It doesn’t seem “farmhouse” or “country” to me. I feel like I should maybe paint it. But I love the red wood. And if I don’t like it white, it will be hard to take it back to the wood thanks to all of the deep carvings.

For now, I’m happy to keep the table as it is.

The rest of this little spot is things that we already had. The basket on the bottom holds receipts. Every so often, Matt does a tally so that we keep track of all of our household expenses. The shallow wood saucer on the tabletop was made by my Dad. It’s a spot to drop mail or other papers and it usually holds a flashlight. The rest of the surface stays relatively clear. Usually my camera bag is sitting here, where it’s easy to grab.

Drop zone in the front entryway

Above the table is a little mirror that my cousin gave us for our wedding. Again, this was something that we didn’t have a place for at our first house, but it fits perfectly beside the light switches. The mirror is something else I mull over occasionally. The wall could accommodate something taller, and the gold frame doesn’t exactly say “country.” I have visions of making a simple barn board frame for a taller mirror… maybe.

Despite its shortcomings, this is a very handy spot. It saves things piling up on the kitchen island most of the time. And I’m happy to see my table finally find a home.

Do you have a drop zone at your house? What are essential features of a drop zone for you? Do you have any furniture that took awhile to find its home? Would you paint the table?

Office makeover update

Made over china cabinet for office storage

I mentioned on Friday that I’ve been a bit frustrated by how long the office makeover is taking. I had made huge progress over the Christmas break, but then I went back to work and it felt like things came to a screeching halt.

Here are my previous posts about this project:

I’ve only been working on the office on the weekends, so that’s the biggest factor affecting my progress. Between working long hours at the day job, writing on the side, spending time with my husband, oh and eating, bathing and sleeping, something’s gotta give, and it’s been the office.

But, I feel like I finally turned a corner.

Here’s our original to-do list, and where we’re at:

  • Scrape ceiling – Finished over the Christmas break
  • Paint ceiling, trim and walls – Finished over the Christmas break
  • Add new shelf to closet – Two shelves are installed. Next step is to fill them.
  • Redo china cabinet and desk – This was the part of the project that took much longer than I’d hoped, but they’re done. And like the closet they’re ready to be filled.
  • Reupholster slipper chair – I stained the legs of the chair while I was doing the desk and the cabinet. I have the fabric. I need some foam. Then I’ll teach myself upholstery.
  • Reupholster ironing board – Because a primary activity of the office is sewing, I have an ironing board in the room. It needs a new cover to match the new office.
  • Unpack all of my boxes and decorate – Oh I am so excited to do this finally.

Finishing the furniture was a big step.

I decided to break up all the white with some wood, so I stripped the top of the desk and china cabinet and stained them darker. The rest of the desk and cabinet went white.

In the left side of the photo below you can see a glimpse of the tall narrow dresser that I made a few years ago for the weird little niche. I swear I bought matching hardware for desk drawers at the same time that I made the dresser. It’s been nearly three years, though, and I’m not sure where I put it.

Office makeover in progress

We’re approaching the “put-it-back-together” stage.

I’m looking forward to sorting my yarn, fabric, other crafting supplies and tchotchkes. I’ve already moved some of my magazines and knitting patterns into the china cabinet. There are some amazing vintage patterns from my grandmother. This may be a farm living, home makeover blog, but I’m going to write another post to show you some of them.

Magazine and knitting pattern storage

Often, I see bloggers moving so fast on makeover projects and doing multiple major renos in a single year. That’s not how I do things (obviously).

I’ve been thinking about this project for a long time, though, and it’s starting to look like the picture in my mind. I feel like this is going to come together–I’m not entirely sure how yet, but I think we’re going to get there.

Do you have a first project of the year? How’s it going for you so far? How do you balance projects with all of the other things happening in  your life? Any tips for organizing fabric or yarn? I admit I’m not entirely sure where to start with some of the things that have to come back into this room.

Tips to create a stylish and dog-friendly home

I recently wrote an article for homify that combines my two loves–dogs and home decor. (My husband is another one of my loves, but that’s a post for another time).

I know that many of you are also dog lovers, so I thought I’d share my tips for creating a stylish and dog-friendly home. From dog beds (complete with a trio of super cute dachshunds) to dog showers, there’s a whole range of ideas–and cute puppy photos.

I’d love to hear what makes a dog-friendly home for you.

For many people, home isn’t home without a dog…

A dog-friendly home is one that is comfortable for both its human and animal occupants. There should be a balance of style and function and–good news–it’s easy to have both.

Read my tips.

What makes your home dog-friendly? What do you wish you had that would make your home friendlier? (For me, it’s definitely a dog shower in the mudroom).

Office oddities

My office,which we’re making over, is an odd little room. It is by far the smallest of our bedrooms. It has a weird floorplan. And it’s also apparently haunted. Yup. You read that right.

Here is a floorplan that is mostly to scale. Note the off-centre window and light. The weird little niche just inside the door. The pocket door that leads into our bedroom (which comes in handy as the switch for the second light is in our bedroom).

Office floorplan

When we scraped the ceiling, we uncovered evidence of earlier walls, and Matt came up with the best explanation I’ve heard so far to explain the odd layout.

It appears that at one time the room was divided roughly in two. Matt’s theory is that half the room served as a large pantry for the kitchen, and the other half was a big walk-in closet off the bedroom. (You can kind of see the lines on the ceiling around the dangling light bulb).

Evidence of old walls on the ceiling

The closet theory explains why there are three full-length mirrors in this one little room–even the pocket door is mirrored. As dated as the mirrors are, they come in handy when I’m sewing and want to see how things fit, so they will be staying.

My office before

I’m doing my best to make the layout work for me. You may remember that our long term plan is for this room to become the foyer when we relocate the front door to the house. So I don’t want to do any major renovations that will be ripped out down the road.

I think I’ve come up with a furniture plan that will work.

Office furniture layout

I figured out how to make use of the tiny niche a few years ago when I set it up as a command centre with a tall narrow dresser, bulletin board and our calendar.

Beside the pocket door, there’s a track light on the ceiling. This makes that wall the best location for my desk.

I bought the china cabinet specifically because it was the exact dimensions to fit on the wide side of the window. The cabinet could also go just inside the door (where our filing cabinet is currently located). However, I feel like a tall piece of furniture might crowd the entryway too much.

I’m hoping that all of the changes will exorcise the ghost in the office.

When we were scraping the ceiling, the room got a little humid. The words “Raven Room” appeared in the steam on the window.

Raven room

So very, very odd.

Do you have an odd room at your house? How about a haunted room? How would you lay out the furniture in this room?

Makeover plans for my office

Our first project of the year is well underway, so it’s past time for me to catch you up. As I mentioned in my Home Goals 2017 last week, we are redoing the last of our three bedrooms, the room that is going to be my office.

My office before

This room has been my office since we moved here, but it’s never been set up as a functional office. It had a filing cabinet to hold our paperwork and a desk (left by the previous owners), which held my sewing machine. That was pretty much it.

Along the way, we added furniture that we weren’t using elsewhere, which gave me a place to store magazines and patterns. But most of my fabric, office supplies and knickknacks were still in the cardboard boxes that I’d packed when we moved from our first house–almost five years ago.

Having a pretty, well-organized, high-functioning room where I can craft, sew, write and work is important to me, and we’re finally going to make it happen.

Here is some of my inspiration.

And here’s our to-do list and an update on where we’re at so far.

  • Scrape ceiling – It has become a tradition that over the Christmas holidays we scrape a ceiling. This year was no different.
  • Paint ceiling, trim and walls – With the ceiling scraped, everything could be painted. The trim, ceiling and closet look so fresh with a coat of white and the walls are a fun dark turquoise.
  • Add new shelf to closet – I bought the shelf on Friday. I just need to trim it to fit.
  • Redo china cabinet and desk – I’ve stripped and restained the tops of the desk and the cabinet and primed the bases. I’m hoping to continue painting this week.
  • Reupholster slipper chair – The legs of the chair got a beautiful dark stain while I was doing the desk and the cabinet. I have the fabric. I need some foam. Then I’ll teach myself upholstery.
  • Reupholster ironing board – Because a primary activity of the office is sewing, I have an ironing board in the room. It needs a new cover to match the new office.
  • Unpack all of my boxes and decorate – Oh I am so excited to do this finally.

I don’t have any pretty photos yet. Here are some progress shots.

First up, the guest room, which is holding all of the things that used to be in my office. Oy vey. My poor pretty guest room. I hope no one wants to come visit for a little while.

Clutter in the guest room

Matt doing the messy work of scraping the ceiling.

Matt scraping the stippled ceiling

Where we’re at as of yesterday afternoon. Beautiful smooth ceiling, bright trim, oh so purty turquoise walls… and a makeshift paint shop.

Progress in the office

I do not like refinishing furniture indoors, but it’s a necessity in January in Canada. My freshly painted walls were so dusty, and I don’t have enough space to lay out all of the pieces that need painted. Argh. This stage is going to take a little while, but I’m feeling good about the progress we’ve made so far.

What do you think about the progress and plans? Do you have an office? What do you use your office for? How do you balance the pretty and the function in a work space?

Home Goals 2017

Alright. It’s officially time to start looking ahead. Time to share my Home Goals 2017.

Unusually, I’ve not been thinking about these for the past few months. Some of them have solidified over the last few weeks–one of them even started just before the end of last year. Some of them came together just as I was writing this post.

I think we’re getting to the stage where more things are done around the house–and the things that are yet to come are biggies. As in so big we’re not ready to tackle them yet (although I really, really, really want a garage).

However, there’s still enough to keep us busy for another year. Here’s what’s on the list.

My office

Turquoise and brass file cabinet from DIY Mommy

Source: DIY Mommy

Ahhh. My office. Finally a room of my own (thank you Virginia Woolf–not an affiliate link). I don’t know as I can convey the monumentalness of this project–except by making up words. Five years ago we moved to the farm. Since that time, moving boxes have been stacked against the wall in my “office.” I want to unpack and truly have a functional office. Finishing off my office will finish off another milestone for the house: the final bedroom.

The transformation is already underway. This is the project that Matt and I started right at the end of December–gotta keep up our holiday tradition of scraping a stippled ceiling.

Clean up the pond shore

Property clean up has been on my list every year. And every year I end up working on whatever spot shows up in front of me. This year I want to be a little more plannful. This year, I am cleaning up the pond shore–how’s that for an emphatic statement.

The pond is my favourite place on our whole 129 acres. And I haven’t been able to easily access the shore the whole time we’ve lived here. I’ve considered enlisting professional help, but I think if I put out a call, I should be able to find a few family members willing to wield chainsaws and weed eaters for a weekend.

Vegetable garden

The vegetable garden was our major project last year, and as a result I feel like we’re in very good shape to start this year’s growing season. However, there are a few things I’d like to add this year, like rhubarb, a second row of berries (maybe raspberries, maybe something else) and maybe some more grapes.

Most important, this year I am going to keep the weeds under control–another emphatic statement. I’m hoping a deep mulch will help me not spend my whole summer weeding.

Flower gardens

Last year our flower gardens were entirely neglected as the vegetable garden consumed all our time. This year I want to give them at least a little bit of attention.

I’ve dumped plants randomly in two beds at the front of the house, and they need a bit of organization. I’d like to add some more shade tolerant flowers to the turnaround.

I’m also planning to remove the flowerbeds at the back of the house (there are only so many hours in a day, and mowing is easier than weeding).

Basement

I’ve said it before. The basement has been hanging around long enough. This is the year we’re going to finish it once and for all–including fun art.

New barn cat

Ralph the barn cat

This one may be more of a farm goal than a home goal.

We have an outstanding barn cat in Ralph. So outstanding that we’d love for her to teach someone the wisdom of her ways. I’m not sure exactly how we’re going to go about finding her an apprentice, but we’re going to figure it out.

So there you have it. Six goals. Two inside, three outside, one alive. Some big, some small, one with a tail. Some easy, some tedious, some furry.

We’ll see how this goes.

Time to get started!

Do you have any goals for this year? What would you like to accomplish at your house? Any tips for introducing a new barn cat? Anyone want to help clear the shore at the pond?

Staying in

Cozy night in the living room in front of the fireplace

Our living room is definitely a work in progress. I’ve shared bits and pieces, like our bookshelves, the sideboard turned sofa table with its display of family photos, the TV stand, the bar cart turned side table and of course our fieldstone fireplace.

Even though there are still things on my to-do list (just don’t look up to the stippled ceiling or giant green ceiling fan, okay?) we love our living room. In fact, this is the room we use the most at the farm.

We are home bodies and prefer to stay in most of the time. Over the holidays, the mattress company Leesa reached out to me and asked me to share the elements that make up my perfect night in. Since this topic is such a fit for me, I wanted to participate.

Most evenings, we come home from work, light a fire and then we have dinner in the living room. Since finishing the fireplace two years ago, this room has become the place we spend our winter evenings.

For me, a wood burning fire is essential to a winter night in. Building this fieldstone fireplace was a dream that I had for years, and it added such country character to our home.

While a brown couch is not the most popular decor choice, it’s a very livable piece of furniture. This is the first piece of furniture we bought when we moved into our first house, and it’s almost 10 years old and still comfortable. We sit, watch TV, eat, sleep and work on this couch–and, yes, doggies are welcome too.

Baxter snuggling on the couch

Obviously, the throws (or as I grew up calling them, afghans) are functional and not just decorative, especially on a cold winter night. Leesa has a blanket to go with their mattresses. It looks super cozy and warm–a great option for staying in, whether you’re snuggling on the couch or dozing in bed.

For me, I’m all about incorporating personal and family pieces in my decor and these knitted afghans are completely that. My Grandma, who taught me how to knit, made the one draped over the back of the couch, and I knit the one with the flowers.

Rounding out my perfect night in are my favourite two-legged guy, a few candles, my favourite fizzy drink, a salty snack and some good TV–we love Ken Burns’ documentaries and are making our way through Baseball (not an affiliate link) right now–it’s so good.

Since moving to the farm, we’d rather be here than anywhere else. Having a living room that’s truly for living is the perfect encouragement for staying in on cozy winter nights.

Are you a home body or do you like to go out on the town? What makes a perfect night in for you? Any other documentary fans out there? Do you have any afghans at your house?

Disclosure: I’m not receiving product or financial compensation from Leesa for this post. This is simply a topic that resonated with me, and I liked the idea of being part of this series with Leesa. Learn more about the Leesa mattress

Looking back at Home Goals 2016

I have to be honest. I’m on the side that is glad to see the end of 2016. It was not my favourite year.

But there were some bright points. And before I look too far ahead into 2017, I want to take a look back at my Home Goals 2016.

I really enjoy laying these goals out at the start of every year. And I find them very helpful throughout the year to keep me on track.

This year was kind of a mix. We accomplished a lot, and I am really happy with what I can cross off the list. However, some little finishing details continue to hang around, and I couldn’t summon the motivation to finish them.

Here’s my review.

Start to plan for the big reno

I started last year by sharing some of the floorplans that we’ve been playing around with for our long term vision for this house. Through that process, I think we landed on a plan that will work best for us.

We also met with a contractor, got his input on the plans and got some very rough numbers from him about how much things will cost.

We also realized that we can easily break our plans–and our budget–down into several phases. I like knowing that we don’t have to do everything and spend all the money all at once.

The big reno, even just phase one, is likely still a little ways away, but it seems more real now that we have some drawings and numbers.

Guest room

Robin's egg blue country guest room

You know I love crossing a whole room off my list, and the guest room has been one of my favourite projects so far.

A few family members visited us in 2016, and they all liked it too. My one nephew said it was like a bed and breakfast–the kid knows how to make his aunt happy.

This is a project where one niggly finishing detail is still hanging around. I stripped the paint off the old metal bedframe way back in the summer, but I never repainted it. So this will have to go on the list for 2017.

Finish the basement

Built in shelving in a small bathroom

The basement was our very first project when we moved to the farm, but four years later I still had some niggly finishing details hanging around. The biggest detail was Matt’s bathroom, which is alllll done–and so, so pretty.

The basement ended up being the focus of an unexpected reno this year when we had to waterproof the foundation in a few areas. It was tough to redo already redone areas. I’m keeping my fingers crossed we don’t have any water seep in this spring.

While I had planned to focus on just a few small things, after redrywalling the areas that were waterproofed, I also built a new closet in the laundry room. Closets were a theme of the basement. We added a tonne of new shelves to the cold cellar and built shelves in the closet under the stairs. These areas have given us a lot of extra storage. It was great to dig out the Christmas decorations without digging through a pile of boxes first.

So there was some good productivity.

But on the niggly details front, I continue to struggle with art to finish off the basement. I know what I want and I even have frames. I just haven’t taken the time to find the pieces I’m looking for. I did make 16 personalized Scrabble tiles for the pingpong room. Having each of our family member’s initials is a touch that I really like. The rest of the art will come in 2017. I promise!

Furniture

90s bookcases as china cabinet

I didn’t buy a whole lot of new furniture this year, but what I did has been on the list for a loooong time.

Finding a third matching cabinet for the dining room was definitely the thrifting score of the year. I think it will be hard to top that one.

A close second, though, is finding a china cabinet for my office. I’ve been looking for a pretty specific piece for a long time. This hunt was a lesson in persistence and the importance of carrying furniture measurements with you everywhere.

The two other pieces of furniture on my list for 2016–making a new coffee table for the living room and reupholstering a slipper chair for my office–will carry into 2017.

Vegetable garden

Vegetable garden

The garden was a huge project this year. We invested a lot of time in it, and we saw the results.

In fact, everything that I wanted to do on my original Home Goals 2016 list, save for planting rhubarb, we did.

2016 was about a lot of the infrastructure for the garden. We finally hung the gate, put in curbs around the outside edge, built raised beds, built trellises for raspberries, tomatoes and squash, planted some perennials like grapes and asparagus, tried our first cover crop of winter rye, experimented with a deep mulch of straw, and last but absolutely not least ran a waterline out to the garden.

This year’s harvest was again fabulous. I feel like we’re starting to settle into our gardening groove.

And thanks to all of the work that we did in 2016, I feel like 2017 will get off to a much faster start and we can focus on growing, not building, the garden.

Outdoor clean-up

Burned lawn

When I look at the farm, I feel like there’s so much that needs to be tidied up. In adding outdoor clean-up to my list last year, I knew I was going to have to pick a spot.

However, when I reflect on the last year, I realize that we actually ended up doing better than just one single spot. We cleaned up a scrap lumber pile behind the barn and another big one at the edge of our centre field. We picked up rocks, so I’m able to mow along the north side of the house, although I would still like to add some more topsoil and pick up a couple of patio slabs.

And the biggest area is the one pictured above on the south side of the garden, which was cleared for the first time this year–a controlled burn is the way to go–and then mowed by Matt all year.

There’s still a lot more clean-up to go, but I have to remind myself that we have a 129-acre property and we have made good progress.

And that’s a good word to sum up 2016 as a whole. Progress.

I feel good about what we accomplished, and, even better, I continue to enjoy the process of making the farm and the house ours.

What were your accomplishments in 2016?

New Year plans from Illinois

Sarah in Illinois is back for another year. She’s kicking off 2017 by sharing some of her plans and projects, and how she’s going to make it all happen.

It’s a new year! That means new goals, new projects and a big blank slate.

Last year I said that I was going to choose one word as my goal for the year, and that word was “focus.” That was helpful for a while. I used “focus” to stay on task and get things done.

However, like most resolutions, once the newness wore off I got back to my old habits.

That is what is so great about a new year. It’s a chance to start over.

So I went to oneword.com again to find a word for 2017. It only took a few seconds for a word to catch my eye. My word for this year is “less.”

It can apply to so many areas of my life. I plan to eat less, spend less, worry less and own less clutter.

Hopefully this year I use my one word to make some great changes and improvements.

As for projects around the house, I decided to set a goal of one project a month.

Some months the project may be large and some months may be much smaller, but the idea that at the end of the year I will have 12 completed projects sounds pretty darn great.

So here are my first 3 projects:

1. Steve and I built a dog house for Blitz to have when he is outside. However, it needs painted and needs some type of roofing material, most likely shingles.

2. Months and months ago my mom brought me my grandma’s St. Francis of Assisi statue from her yard. My plan was to patch the cracks and repaint it. So far, I have not done a thing to it, and my grandma doesn’t even know that I have it. I would really like to get it fixed up for her before she looks out in the yard and thinks that someone stole her statue.

3. I really want to finish priming and painting our hallway. I am embarrassed to say how long it has been unfinished, but believe me it is a long long time.

I hope in the next three months I can get these projects done. It will take “focus” and “less” distraction that is for sure.

What are your plans for the new year? Do you make resolutions? What do you do to make sure you stay on task and get things done?

Thanks for sharing your plans, Sarah. I really like your strategy of having a word to guide you throughout the year and a project a month. Good luck with your first three projects. I’m looking forward to seeing the results.