Update: Holy cow, you guys are full of so many fun ideas today! I’m having trouble keeping up with comments since they’re rolling in so furiously, but please know I’m reading them all and loving all the suggestions!
Happy Friday! We’ve been all over the place this week, painting the walls/trim/ceiling in the master bathroom & closet, diving into some basket craftiness, de-wallpapering our biggest room yet (the 21′ long kitchen), and now we have a little Clara-room update along with some photoshop percolating as we plot our next move in there. But first, here’s the tiny (and twinkly) addition:
Things just got a little brighter in here…
Ever since we hung her canopy, we’ve thought about adding lights to it. Both for the magic of it (Clara loves them) and also for the function of it being a well-lit place for bedtime stories. We feared traditional Christmas lights would be too heavy and make the fabric sag in weird ways (plus, they could look a little messy when they were off) so after some hunting online, we came across what are often dubbed “Fairy Lights.”
They’re basically small LEDs (check out this picture for scale – they’re tiny) that are strung on a thin wire. The particular set that we bought was 33 feet long and sold for $14 on Amazon (that’s not an affiliate link, just a direct amazon link for ya).
The wire itself is extremely light and pretty moldable, so it was easy to weave it back and forth across the 18″ corbels that the fabric rests on. And by some luck of the draw, 33 feet was just about the perfect length to go back and forth four times on each side of the peak to the side brackets and secure them at each turn with white tape, so they’re not something Clara easily unwind and swing around like a lasso – but they will easily release under her weight, so she couldn’t strangle on them.
The next step was just draping the canopy back over them. The LEDs are so small that they tuck into the folds and are barely visible when they’re off. And when they’re on, well, you can see how they twinkle below. And since they’re LEDs, they’re completely cool to the touch – so we don’t have any fear of them being against fabric. I also love that they’re small resin-ish glowing dots instead of larger glass bulbs that could shatter.
I wish the part that plugs in weren’t big and black, but we were able to plug it in behind the bed and wrap the cord around the bed in a way that it’s able to be hidden behind the canopy most of the time, but easily accessed when it’s time to connect the cords to the power adapter. See how you can see it on the left, but it’s tucked away and invisible on the right? Thank you John, hand model of the ages.
Clara LOVES them. Partly because they’re called “Fairy Lights” but mostly because she feels very special having her own set of secret lights above the bed. We intended just to put them on for story time at night or other special play times, but they actually put off a fair amount of light, so we’ve found ourselves putting them on just about any time we’re in the room and the sun isn’t fully out.
We’ve had them up there for a week or two (didn’t want to sing their praises too soon only to have them burn out or something weird) and so far they have been awesome for our gentle girl. She hasn’t touched them once, but loves gazing up at them. Meanwhile, my best friend’s four year old daughter is nothing short of an acrobat, so we laughed about how she’d probably scale the canopy and hang from the fabric like she was Pink in concert.
But even with the addition of the lights, the canopy is still definitely missing something above it. There’s still so much white on white on white that we’ve been brainstorming which way we want to go. We’ve debated painting just that peaked area under the canopy for a while and then adding something else in there (like a hanging paper lantern or mobile or even a cute little animal head or something). So here are a few ideas, thanks to our good friend Photoshop.
Idea #1: A gray tone on the walls to add drama and a little dreaminess to the canopy, inspired by this wallpaper by Osborne And Little.
Idea #2: Maybe I could freehand some sort of imperfect painterly-ish mural, inspired by this awesome fabric covered lamp shade?
Idea #3: Another hand painted mural possibility could be something like this cluster of colorful raindrops in a variety of colors (inspired by this amazing but sadly sold out print).
Idea #4: Then I saw this picture of a pretty blue-green wall with little birds on it and thought that could be fun.
Idea #5: Since Clara’s quite the animal lover, we thought maybe a friendly giraffe or zebra (like this one from Dwell Studio) peering down at her while she sleeps could be fun with a blue-gray wall.
Idea #6: These little teardrops in a few different colors had my mind spinning with possibilities too.
Idea #7: Then I thought about a colorful fabric hung along that back wall, perhaps something with the same large-scale boldness of this pink and red wall coverings that Jenny shared here.
Idea #8: And then there was the possibility of even darker charcoal paint on the walls and some asymmetrical handmade banners in a few colors like these (which were actually a super cool photo background for this party). Update: since this one looks chalkboard-ish there have been a lot of suggestions to do that so Clara can doodle away, but we worry that chalk dust over her bed might not be the best call (there are chalk markers but they’re not as charming, so we’ll have to see where we end up).
What do you guys think? Any favorites? Or combos? I think we’re leaning towards the gray background tone in Idea #1 or the dark charcoal color in Idea #8, but we’re not sure if we’ll stencil stars or something else – and we might just combine it with something 3D (like a little felt circle bunting or a hanging paper lantern or something). We’d love for Clara to weigh in on things too, and then I’m hoping to work on it this weekend (along with stenciling the bathroom floor and helping John finish that sunroom tile). What are you guys up to this weekend?
Update: Clara weighed in on these photoshopped pics as well as some more that we made based on people’s suggestions and then we made one last photoshopped picture for her, since she wanted to combine a few ideas (we even video-taped her reaction, which was pretty funny). Can’t wait to get it done and share what she liked best!
As a little Friday bonus, here are four fun projects, chats, or questions going on over on the Forums. We also announced this week’s giveaway winner, so you can click here (and scroll down to the Rafflecopter box) to see if it’s you.
|by makingahouse||by Mallory||by DesertDomicile||by oats
Q: You’re putting time and energy into this “temporary” job for the master bathroom (not to mention some money), so why not just go ahead and do the full gut job? I know you guys watch money really well, but isn’t this not the most cost-effective in the long-run? :) – Karen
A: This is a great question, and we thought it would be fun to elaborate on the subject. Because it’s safe to say that we love saving a buck, but we also like showing an old house some love and making it feel like home, so here’s our take. First of all, I think a lot of people think like Karen does – in fact we had that same exact instinct when we moved into our first house. It was so tempting to just to freeze a room until we had the budget to completely redo it.
But we slowly learned that sometimes a small “sweat investment” in the form of a few upgrades to tide you over for a year or two until you can save up the loot to fully redo a room (and really think it through) is completely worth the Phase 1 effort and the small amount of money you might sink into that interim upgrade. And sometimes doing a few small things to improve a space before diving into a bigger redo can actually save you money because they give you a chance to (inexpensively!) figure out what you like and what you don’t like as you go. It can definitely cost you more if you don’t discover those things until the middle of a big gut job when time is money and the stakes are a lot higher.
Let’s take our current master bathroom makeover, where we’re aiming to spend around $100-200 on a Phase 1 makeover.
We got to the point where we just couldn’t live with the old carpet in there for another day, so to us, showing the room some interim love just made a lot more sense than living with things that made us groan for a few more years. Especially since inexpensive updates like a few cans of paint and a new mirror (which can always be used in another room down the line) can easily make it a lot more pleasant in there. Note: this is just a photoshopped rendering of our plans, but next week we hope to have the floors stenciled!
Why not just get to gutting things right away? Well, we learned all the way back in our first house (even before we started blogging) that doing a full renovation when you only live somewhere a few months means you might not have time to think everything through. For example, it took us over a year of living with our first kitchen to realize that if we closed off a door we’d gain 70% more counter space. Had we rushed into a renovation, we never would have come up with that plan – so we’d have new counters and cabinets – but the same cramped layout that we started with.
Soon after moving in we did a Phase 1 makeover while we saved up for a more major reno down the line. Just some paint on the cabinets and peel and stick tile on the floors (along with updating a few appliances that we reused when we fully redid the room). Let me just tell you, it was so worth enjoying a somewhat updated kitchen for that time (during which we got married in the backyard and had 75 of our friends and family over). Sure, we spent a weekend painting the cabinets, another weekend updating the floor, and dug into our savings for about $150 just for Phase 1 (that’s a guess at the total cost for the primer, paint, and the peel & stick tile) but the “return” on that money & time investment was that for over a year we got to walk into a room that felt fresher, cleaner, and more like us, instead of feeling stuck or frozen in the before shot for over a year.
When we had finally saved up the money – and had fully thought it through – we got to renovate that kitchen and ended up loving the outcome. It was completely worth the small time/effort up front for a Phase 1 update while we saved our pennies, and the fact that we ended up with a completely redone space that we adored (with a lot more function than anything we could have slapped together right away after moving in) definitely confirmed that this phase-by-phase, over-time method just seems to work for us.
The same thing happened in our full bathroom at that first house of ours. We started with this carpeted and crocheted space…
… and we did some simple updates like pulling up the carpeting, re-caulking things, adding some paint, and bringing in some sweet art, new lighting, and accessories to tide us over for a few years.
But up close both the floor and wall tile was cracked and damaged, so although we loved it, we sadly couldn’t salvage it.
So when we finally had the money and time to tackle a full gut-job a few years later, we were excited to dive in. And thanks to spending a lot of time planning every step, we only spent around $1800 on a full bathroom renovation, including rebuilding this room from the studs (new walls, new trim) along with a new marble tile floor, new fixtures, a tub/shower that we tiled to the ceiling, a new custom vanity, etc.
But it was certainly nice not to spend years living with this carpeted bathroom with a duck curtain, and do that Phase 1 update – even though we couldn’t fly out of the gate with a full renovation immediately.
So this method has been serving us well for a while now (holy cow, over seven years!) and we expect that nearly every room of our current house will have a multi-phase progression since we’re planning to be in this house for a nice long time. We don’t want to rush into anything without fully thinking it through and we’d like to save up for things that we truly will love for the long haul. But that doesn’t mean we have to live with old carpeting and wallpaper – and that we can’t toss up a little paint up, hang some art, update some light fixtures or faucets, and generally make the place feel fresher and more like us as we plan those larger scale undertakings and squirrel away some money.
In fact I think moving forward and experimenting within a certain space (not just in your head or while staring at a picture in a magazine) is a really helpful step when it comes to getting it right down the road with your major renovation. This was our first attempt at our first house’s bathroom. Scary, eh? But it turns out we had to paint the windowsill black and toss up a blue pashmina to learn that it was NOT what we liked (I thought it would be “so Domino magazine” and it was so… bad).
So we course corrected as we went, and ended up with a room that we could really enjoy in the interim, which then led to a brand new bathroom that we loved even more down the road. I guess one way to look at it would be that those small updates over time are like stairs. They build to a better result, and they bridge the gap between your before to your after. Without Phase 1 in here, we might never have arrived at that “love it” Phase 2 result, which might now have led us to a “love it even more!” Phase 3 outcome. So expecting to freeze at “before” and then skip right to “after” might not happen for everyone. But for us, that step-by-step approach over time just seems to get us from point A to point C without as much stress as attempting to skip right from what we hate to what we love in one fell swoop.
And sometimes it’s amazing to see how a few updates like paint, art, a window treatment, and a few accessories can bring an old room back from the brink without a major makeover down the line. Yes, in some cases a Phase 1 update can help you see that you don’t need to gut something at all (hello, money savings!) – and realizing that you can actually work with what you have can be the equivalent of finding a thousand dollar bill in your couch cushion. Take our $51 guest bathroom mini makeover, for example. We had pretty much planned to work with this tile from the start (it was in great shape and we thought the vintage yellow tone was charming) so we hoped this bathroom just needed a few cosmetic fixes… but others who came over couldn’t see how it would ever work without bringing in the sledgehammer.
All we did was paint, add a window treatment, hang some art, and remove some bad elements (like the mirror that reflected every guest’s full body while they sat on the toilet) but when the decorating dust cleared, even my mom was saying “you’ve made a believer out of me.”
So you might think a room needs a full gut job, but experimenting with some affordable for-now fixes might just prove otherwise and save you a whole lot of money and effort down the line. And the only way to find that out sometimes is by diving into Phase 1. So if you wait and skip right to Gut Job, you might never know how charming a room can be with just a few wallet-saving fixes. Our hall bathroom was a slightly more involved update than our guest room (we framed out the mirror and added a built-in shelf), but the tile was still in great shape, so we got to work with almost everything that was there already. Note: pardon the yellow cast on this picture, it was move-in day and I was rushing around shooting in the wrong mode.
After spending just $168, we had a completely fresh looking room.
The cool thing about this method is that if Phase 1 does the trick, you’re done! And you’re probably thanking your lucky stars you didn’t go straight to full-reno mode. And if Phase 1 only serves to “tide you over” instead of majorly saving you from a bigger renovation, it’s still a win because you get to smile more as you save up and percolate on Phase 2 plans down the line. Plus going through the thought process of Phase 1 can better help you pinpoint what you still don’t love about a room (the layout, damaged tile, missing counter space, etc) and you get this bonus “learning experience” before jumping into any major construction down the road.
What about you guys. How do you balance your desire for a space that feels fresh and homey without blowing a bunch of cash you don’t quite have? I’m sure it’s different for everyone, so I’d love to hear what works for you. Do you do the ol’ freeze thing and just try not to think about all the things that bug you? Or do you sprinkle in some inexpensive updates along the way? Don’t get me wrong, we still have a bunch of rooms that we’ve been ignoring for months (can’t do ‘em all at once!) but I like to think that those “we just can’t take this anymore” moments are what help us decide what needs a Phase 1 intervention most of all, and then we can dive right into that with some gusto.