All posts by Diane

On Creating a Brand Booth for a Conference, aka the Whole-House Takeover of 2018

In February, I created a booth for Rust-Oleum at the first-ever Workbench Con. And in true UDH fashion, it became a crazy story all its own.

For more than eight years (April 1st was my blogiversary, actually), I have spent time regularly updating this blog, (mostly) all about my ups and downs of DIY home remodeling. It’s been about individual projects aplenty, but most of all, it’s been about the journey. It has taken years to build a home I love, and there’s more yet to do. Through that, I created a business I’m passionate about. And even more astonishing to me, I created a brand that is recognized by companies I admire.

And? That’s all super, super surreal. Frequently. Because things come at ya fast, and you wind up saying yes to things you can still fail at because you’ve never really done them before. That’s how I wound up building a brand booth at a conference that took over my kitchen and living room and made my new roommate wonder what the hell he’s gotten himself into.

Booth & conference backstory

Over the winter, I was asked by Rust-Oleum — a brand that I’ve used so. many. times. and even featured as some of my first projects — to build their booth at the first-ever Workbench Con in Atlanta, GA. You guys have heard me talk about Haven before, and this conference is sort of like its rough-around-the-edges cousin. More focused on woodworking, set up in a warehouse instead of hotel ballrooms, and more influencers of all kinds (Haven is mostly blog-focused, while this also drew YouTubers and Instagrammers and such, who collectively refer to themselves as “makers”).

For a new conference, I didn’t really know what to expect or what other brands might be bringing to the table. I mostly had Haven as reference, which meant I needed to bring my A-game! I knew Rust-Oleum had previously asked bloggers to create booths for other conferences in the past, such as when Bower Power did it for Haven in 2016. I never thought I’d ever get an opportunity like that.

They asked me to help with the event since I was local, and sent me a few of their ideas to work with. I came back with my design concept, and they agreed! Part of what I was commissioned to do was to showcase some specific new products. One of these is a product designed to chemically mimic the look of aged wood (I nerded out a little with some of the Rust-Oleum reps while setting up, and they have some real smarties in product development). Neat.

Rising above self-doubt

As you might expect, when faced with a totally new challenge and completely unanticipated circumstances, I had a lot of self-sabotaging thoughts leading up to the conference.

  • I’m not really “into” farmhouse/rustic style, and didn’t know if I could take my own style and still give Rust-Oleum something that would showcase well. After all, this was about them making their product look good, and I really wanted to do that job well. (I later changed my mind about the product once I started using it, and may even like it better than regular stain now.)
  • I was intimidated by the fact that the conference was targeting woodworking experts; would my beginner-level skills hold up to their discerning eyes?
  • I’d never built furniture meant to be transported before; what if the whole darn thing fell apart before I even got there? Exactly how crazy am I to agree to this?

Still, with a whole lot of ambition — and perhaps naive enthusiasm — I said yes. I gratefully said yes, because it sounded like something that would be too cool to pass up. I knew I would always regret turning it down… and would challenging myself be so bad? As long as I put in the work, I would gain new experience and possibly the chance to shout “Look at what I made!! It’s so cool!!!” from the rooftops.

Battling fear with research

As I do with my house renovation projects, I went into research mode. I asked the event organizer for a breakdown of what was to be expected, and to physically see the warehouse before the event to get a better minds-eye for what I needed to do. I even called Katie from Bower Power to get her behind-the-scenes take at Haven; I furiously took down notes and came up with my game plan.

Getting to work

Rust-Oleum sent a huge shipment of products to my door to help me create the booth. The overall plan involved living elements, lighting, and lots of texture. From Rust-Oleum’s product line, I used stain, the wood accelerator product, and lots of spray paint.

Here’s where the first part of my plan goes awry, though: it was a few weeks before the conference, and the weather predicted nothing but RAIN until the day of. For weeks!! And I really needed to work outside with stain and spray paint. My kitchen had just undergone a mini-makeover with new appliances, and the garage was full of the old ones until I could sell them off. My boyfriend was right in the middle of moving all of his stuff into the house, and we’d just cleared out the guest bedroom for renovation. I had basically no workshop, and without the weather cooperating, no option to work outside. Womp-womp.

I waited as long as I thought possible (in vain), hoping the weather would allow me to stain and paint outside. Short of that, I started building in the living room.

The living room takeover

Starting with the back of the booth, I built frames out of 2x4s and ripped down large sheets of 1/4″ oak plywood into strips. I matched them all up to form a chevron pattern on each wall segment.

The general idea was to build in sections. This way, I could lift and move them into the warehouse myself. About a day before the conference, the sky gave me a short reprieve so I could cut down the plywood overhanging each segment and stain them all. I know this will sound like a cheesy product plug to say it, but part of the reason why I like Rust-Oleum/Varathane stains is because of the short dry time. This was probably not the exact reason for engineering them that way, but it made the difference between finishing and not finishing on time.

The kitchen takeover

With the panels for the back wall taking up all available space in the living room, I created the booth table and storage in the kitchen.

Creating the chevron pattern for the wall meant cutting off excess along the sides of each panel. These leftover cutoffs didn’t go to waste. Instead, I tacked them onto the front of the booth to create a layered wood effect. This was partly inspired by the West Elm store in Ponce City Market, one of my favorite local spots with that same industrial-chic vibe (lots of shops and really unique eateries).

For the top and front of the booth table, I used pre-painted MDF for the trim and stained the plywood with the new aged wood accelerator. This is where I was pleasantly surprised: I loved the look! It’s water-based and went on beautifully, no matter how sloppy I had to get to fit my brush into all the little nooks and crannies of the layered wood. Unlike stain where you would wipe on/off, with this you just put it on and let it work its magic. Truly fun to see it work into the wood grain and the rich color it creates.

The hallway takeover

For the back wall, I was tasked to show off some of Rust-Oleum’s spray paint line. I was eager to use my new scroll saw that I received for Christmas, so I cut out each letter of Rust-Oleum’s logo and mounted it to a wooden sign. The letters were spray painted white, while the back was metallic. I thought it fun to make the square grid of their logo carry the living element theme, so I placed succulents inside (to be mounted when installed).

There were other little extras, like converting some square planters into wall mounted ones, getting each piece ready to assemble and hang day of, etc. I just barely finished in time. Even though I’m proud of what I accomplished, I will always wish I could have done more.

The booth!

The day of installation, it was a mad rush to load everything onto a rental truck (K had helped me load a few items the night before, but there were still lots of big pieces to load next day on my own — and unload, of course!), wheel it all into my designated booth spot, and set up. And here it is!

I also want to say a special thank you to my friends, Charlotte (yes, my Dueling DIY nemesis!), Erin Spain, and Yuni from Love Your Abode for helping me finish! They came by for some words of encouragement and to say hello, and got roped into helping (knowing full well I’d put ’em to work). Thank you, ladies!

I took a few clips while I was at the conference, so while this video really won’t make much sense, you can see more of the “real” look at the conference and everything around us.

Here’s the crazy part

The rest of the conference went by in a flash, and it was just as most conferences tend to go: lots of meeting new people, lots of seeing familiar faces, and lots of learning. It was a great conference, and I’m planning on coming back in 2019!

As part of building the booth for Rust-Oleum, they also wanted me to disassemble after the conference and drop it off to one of their local buildings for future use (part of the reason I tried to build things in separate parts, so it could be shipped later). Right after the conference closing ceremonies ended and all the giveaway prizes were handed out, I grabbed my rental truck and returned back to the booth to take it apart. Only part of it had mysteriously been done for me. It cracks me up now, but in the moment, I was panicked.

Somehow, in the chaos of the other brands taking apart their booths, there had been a miscommunication that Rust-Oleum had left their booth behind for the conference crew to take apart. Who, in turn, encouraged attendees to take as much as they would like home with them (makes sense, since it’s less work to haul away). Since I had made everything deliberately to be taken apart in pieces for shipping, I suppose I made that extra easy. So the plants, planters, and all the smaller decorative items, including the lights on the back wall, had all disappeared.

I called the Rust-Oleum team to let them know of what happened, and later even learned of where some of the items wound up (one of the conference attendees even sweetly offered to ship me back what they had taken after seeing my post on Instagram, wishing a new happy life to the objects that had walked away ).

I swear, this is the kind of thing that would only happen to me. I am forever grateful for this experience — even the nutty story.

Two inspired pieces

But, the story doesn’t quite end there. Remember how I thought my wood carving project for the Wood Art Challenge might crash and  burn? I still had a bunch of scrap plywood left over, so I thought it would be perfect for a backup art piece, just in case the carving failed and I needed something else in time for the challenge.

Originally, I was planning on making that inspired art piece and a short recap of the conference as one post. But as you can see, the story got… a little long. So, I’m splitting the two, but will share that second art piece today as a tandem post to this one! You can find that project right here.

I actually have a third related post in store that is also inspired by my booth. The white planters you see hanging on the wall of the booth is an Ikea hack, so that will be shared soon too. After making them the first time, I really wanted some for the house. That’s a little further down on the priority list until I get more of the shed done, though. So go click over to the air plant wall art post. I hope you enjoy!

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The Nasty 9: What Are the Germiest Places in Your Home?

Some germs are beneficial, but not when they put you and your loved ones at risk for viruses and diseases. Your home, with all of its nooks and crannies, is a breeding ground for mold, staph germs, yeast and coliform bacteria.

Some places in your home are germier than others, so cleaning takes a little extra effort in these areas. We spoke with Dr. Charles Gerba, a microbiologist at the University of Arizona who is better known as “Dr. Germ,” and consulted a study by the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF), a public health and safety organization. With their help, we discovered the nine germiest places in your home – and how to clean and disinfect them.

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Even items used for cleaning can play host to germs. Image: Michael Norpell

1. Dish sponges

“Number one is the household sponge – almost all have E. coli growing in them, and in our studies, 15% had Salmonella,” Dr. Gerba tells Freshome. “That sponge stays wet and moist with plenty of food for bacteria to eat.” In the NSF study, 86% of sponges had mold and yeast, 77% contained coliform bacteria and 18% were filled with staph bacteria.

There are many types of coliform bacteria, including salmonella and E. coli, which can lead to stomach cramps, diarrhea and vomiting. In more serious cases, E. coli can also cause pneumonia and respiratory problems.

You can reduce germs by microwaving that wet sponge. “Bacteria grow to large numbers in the sponge and [the sponge] needs to be washed – microwave for 30 seconds every five to six days. But be careful, because they get hot,” Gerba says. “You can toss your dish rags in the dishwasher.” He also warns against using the same sponge or cloth for cleaning the kitchen and the bathroom.

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kitchen sink

Food residue and dirt – it’s not surprising that the kitchen sink is one of the germiest places in your home. Image: Top Drawer Luxury Home Builder

2. Kitchen sink

Gerba says the kitchen contains more germs than the bathroom, and the kitchen sink places second in the germiest places in your home. That’s not hard to believe when you consider that this is the place where you wash dirt and germs off of raw food. It’s also the spot where you rinse your plates and utensils before placing them in the dishwasher. In the NSF study, 45% of the sinks contained coliform bacteria and 27% contained mold.

At least once a week, preferably twice, disinfect the sink (including the sides). Drains and disposals should be disinfected at least once a month. If you use a bleach solution, be sure to rinse afterward.

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toothbrush holder

The areas around a bathroom sink are no less germy than those in the kitchen. Image: Signature Hardware

3. Toothbrush holder

No, the toilet is not the germiest place in your bathroom – that distinction goes to your toothbrush holder. In fact, Gerba believes the toilet seat might be the least germy place in your bathroom, because it gets cleaned more regularly than other places. However, if your toothbrush holder is located close to the toilet, it may be subject to particles that are sprayed through the air when you flush. An alarming 64% of toothbrush holders contained mold and yeast, 27% contained coliform and 14% contained staph.

Close the toilet when you flush and try to keep your toothbrush holder as far away from the toilet as possible. On a weekly basis, put the holder in the dishwasher’s sanitizing cycle (assuming it’s dishwasher safe), and consider replacing toothbrushes on a quarterly basis.

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pet bowls

Furry friends, perhaps unsurprisingly, contribute to a germy household. Image: Sander & Sons Kitchen and Bath

4. Pet bowl and pet toys

Many of your pet’s favorite objects are also bastions of germs. In fact, 45% of bowls contained mold and yeast and 18% contained coliform bacteria. Among pet toys, 55% contained yeast and mold and 23% contained staph bacteria.

Clean your pet’s bowls daily. The NSF recommends either washing them on the dishwasher’s disinfecting cycle or washing by hand using soapy water. If you choose to wash them by hand, soak the bowls in a bleach solution for 10 minutes once a week. Clean hard toys with soapy water, then rinse, disinfect and air-dry. Soft toys can be cleaned on your washing machine’s sanitizing cycle. The NSF also recommends that everyone in the home wash their hands after making contact with pets.

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coffee maker

Clean your coffee maker regularly to ensure you’re not drinking bacteria with your daily caffeine. Image: Mauricio Nava Design LLC

5. Coffee reservoir

That coffee maker could be giving you more than just a jolt of caffeine. The coffee reservoir is not only damp, but also dark, making it an ideal place for germs to thrive. In the NSF study, half of the reservoirs contained yeast and mold and 9% contained coliform bacteria.

To clean the coffee reservoir, pour four cups of vinegar into the reservoir, wait 30 minutes, then brew the vinegar as you would brew coffee. Afterward, brew at least two cycles of water to rinse the vinegar out.

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bathroom faucets

Bathroom faucet handles require daily maintenance to stay bacteria-free. Image: Artsaics Studios

6. Bathroom faucet handles

Unless you have a touchless faucet in your bathroom, faucet handles are some of the germiest places in your home. It makes sense: Turning on the faucet is the step between using the bathroom and washing your hands. The NSF study found that 27% of faucet handles contained staph and 9% contained coliform bacteria.

On a daily basis, clean your faucet handles with a disinfectant spray or disinfecting wipes.

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kitchen countertop

A kitchen countertop often becomes home to bacteria carried in from outdoors. Image: Pickell Architecture

8. Countertop

If the kitchen is the home’s hub, the countertop is the kitchen’s hub. Packages and bags of groceries (which were previously on the floor of your car) are placed on it, in addition to handbags and backpacks. And yet, this is also where you prepare food – some of it raw. It comes as no surprise that 32% of countertops contained coliform bacteria and 18% contained mold.

Keep non-food items off of the countertop, and disinfect it before and after preparing food. (Note: Since countertops are made of a variety of materials, follow the manufacturer’s instructions to ensure that you don’t damage it.)

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modern kitchen

Stove knobs fall victim to food spatter and germy hands. Image: JACKBILT

9. Stove knobs

How often do you clean your stove knobs? Probably not often enough: In the NSF study, 27% knobs contained mold and yeast, while 14% contained coliform bacteria.

On a weekly basis, take the stove knobs off and wash them in soapy water.

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modern bathroom

Bathrooms, kitchens and handheld devices are all prime locations for germs. Image: Enviable Designs

Additional germ hotspots

The Nasty 9 are far from being the only germ-ridden places in your home. “The cutting board usually has 200 times more bacteria than a toilet seat,” says Gerba. He recommends using two cutting boards: one for meats and one for veggies. “Also, your refrigerator door is quite germy because of handling raw foods without washing your hands.”

Other germy places in your home include:

  • Toilet handle
  • Toilet seat
  • Bathroom door knob
  • Bathroom light switch
  • Cellphone
  • Keyboard
  • Remote control
  • Hand towels

However, Gerba warns against panicking. “You don’t need to clean more; just take care of your cleaning tools and use disinfecting wipes or a kitchen cleaner with a disinfectant in the kitchen,” he says. “You do not have to keep your home germ-free – just keep the numbers down.”

Do you have any additional tips for keeping your home clean and manageable? Tell us in the comments.


Simple DIY Tricks for Covered Porch Plants

I’ve learned the hard way what not to do when it comes to container gardening. Today, I’m sharing a few simple tips on picking the right shade-loving plants for thriving covered porch planters.

Happy Saturday! While I’m praying that the weather cooperates so I can get more done on the shed this weekend, I thought I’d give you a fun little update for what’s going on with the front porch.

A few weeks ago, I shared with you that, although I’ve done a lot of repair and basic updating to the front porch area, I haven’t really taken things to the next level in terms of style. Don’t get me wrong; it’s a far cry from where things began:

But with more of the house in later renovation stages and my increasing desire to entertain after years of repair, it’s time to really put some oomph into the entry! Most recently, I began this process with two new planters and some seasonal color. As I finished up, it occurred to me that I should pass on a few of these tips to you guys!

1. Know thyself… and thy porch

It’s taken me years to get the hang of gardening in and around the house. In that time, I’ve learned the kind of light/water/general care the area is going to get. As it turns out, finding answers to those questions are pretty important for making sure plants stay healthy:

  • what kind of sunlight does the area get naturally?
  • will the spot be exposed directly to the weather or require more deliberate upkeep?
  • will it need to be moved around regularly?

Considering that a covered porch is shaded most of the day, any light it gets is generally indirect. As far as watering, the rain won’t reach this area, so I would have to do most of the watering myself (which also means a plant would need to be tolerant of my limited upkeep).

I’ve found that as well-intentioned as I might be, it’s best to ignore my impulse to buy a plant just because it’s beautiful. No amount of beauty in a plant has ever caused me to put in more effort in the garden, so I’ve learned to seek out plants that suit my needs and my house’s most natural conditions rather than tell myself that I’ll change my ways. Phrases like “shade” and “drought/heat tolerant” are factors for success. Don’t buy the plant that needs watering every day if you barely have time to shower. Resist the urge to buy a plant and get overly ambitious with your normal habits for care; it’s a recipe for a brown, dead plant!

2. Height, texture, color.

There is another rule like this you may have heard: thriller, filler, spiller. Basically, you want to pick plants that have some variety for visual interest. And a good rule of thumb is to pick a grouping with three separate purposes: height, filling the container, and spilling over the lip of the container. I decided not to go with a “spiller” for this season, but I still kept the variety a priority. One larger shrub toward the back of the container is used to add height (and will grow taller over time). Another was added for texture (the hosta), and a third was chosen for bright color. The colorful impatiens will eventually need to be replaced (they’re annuals), and at that point I might replace them with a more cascading plant.

3. How to use less soil and lighten up potted plants

You may have noticed the empty plastic water bottles in the above photo; that’s actually the planter’s little secret! A few years ago, I discovered this trick for using less soil per planter. It also keeps the potted plant lighter, so I can move them around when the situation calls for it. Just throw several empty bottles into the bottom of the container, and cover the top area with newspaper. Then, plant as usual.

4. Tilt plants toward the lip to look fuller

When I first began planting containers, I thought everything had to be planted straight up and down. It wasn’t until I spoke with a gardener a few years ago that I realized that you can manipulate it a little. Tilt the plant slightly when planting so that they root at an angle, toward the edge of the planter. This is especially effective with “spiller” type plants that fall over and down the container, but I did it here with the impatiens to make the color pop a little more and make the planter look fuller.

5. Water regularly until established

Moving day is pretty much stressful for all living creatures, it seems; keep in mind that new plants tend to need more water upkeep until they have been around for a little while.

6. Easy does it

I’ve found that if I can keep my impatience in check, the better it is for my gardens. Adding slowly and thoughtfully, rather than planting too ambitiously too fast, leads to a garden style I’m much happier with.

I always get so impatient during the first year with new plants, thinking that I went too small or that I need to add more. Instead, a simple care plan for this first year is better than adding too much; it risks killing everything from having too much upkeep. The main shrub in each of these containers will grow between 3-4 feet, so while the plants needed a little something extra this year, they probably won’t need to be filled in much in the future.

Regardless, it’s nice to come home to some bright new color!

Want more outdoor DIY ideas? You’re in luck! My pal Cassity from Remodelaholic is hosting an Outdoor DIY Challenge today, and there are 12 more projects to check out!

Get Out! Outdoor DIY Projects

Covered Patio Outdoor Dining Area | Remodelaholic
DIY Outdoor Bench | Hertoolbelt
How to Build a Gazebo (from a Kit) | The Palette Muse
Sunroom Makeover | Lantern Lane Designs
DIY Solar Walkway Lights | Toolbox Divas
Wooden Welcome Sign Wreath | Lemon Thistle
DIY Washer Toss Game | Everyday Party Magazine
Backyard Hammock Area | North Country Nest
Easy Cinder Block Garden Planters | Our Crafty Mom
Funny DIY No Soliciting Sign | Leap of Faith Crafting
Simple DIY Tricks for a Covered Porch | Ugly Duckling House (you’re HERE!)
Bistro Set Makeover | Practical & Pretty
Tiered Vertical Planter Garden | Creative Ramblings
There’s also a video playlist you can catch right here too! Have a great weekend, friends!

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Check Out Trisha Yearwood’s Dreamy New Southern-Chic Line For Kirkland’s

Trisha Yearwood is so much more than a country music star. She’s also a TV cooking host and three-time New York Times best-selling cookbook author, with a line of food products available at Williams Sonoma. And now, she’s got a brilliantly stylish new collection of Southern-chic home accents at Kirkland’s.

The Trisha Yearwood Kirkland’s collection of 23 pieces is affordably priced between $10 and $300. The collection includes wall art, accent furniture and home accessories inspired by Trisha’s Southern roots. The best part: the pieces are all mix-able and match-able in beautiful (and extremely versatile) ivories, golds and sea foam.

“Some of my favorite things about my hometown of Monticello, Georgia, are the dogwood-lined streets of spring, and everything that goes along with that time of year. Everything is fresh and new, and has a certain sparkle to it,” says Yearwood. “That’s the feeling that inspired this collection. It’s an elegant, yet comfortable collection that you can easily incorporate into your own style of decorating.”

Check out a few of the Trisha Yearwood Kirkland’s pieces:

If you want to soften your space up a bit with some muted, yet elegant shades and add a little bit of lovely texture, you’ll love her collection. The items tie in well with neutrals such as beiges, greys and whites.

All the items can be purchased online or at Kirkland’s national locations.

Have a favorite piece in the collection? Let us know in the comments!

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Dueling DIY: Before and Halfway Reveal?

My friend Charlotte and I are in a DIY battle to renovate our guest bedrooms. Catch the entire series here.

Hey folks! I’m sure you guys expected me to post this last Wednesday (sorry about that), but these last two weeks have been nuts!

My birthday was on the 1st… and like clockwork, I was hit with epic hayfever that left my face swollen, sneezing, and itchy. Not a pretty picture. It makes me feel miserable, and feel so lame, all at the same time. I think it’s the mundaneness of being taken down by tree dust. Or that I somehow manage to forget not to leave the house until June when I’m excited that spring has finally returned.

Still, I at least got to go out to dinner and put on a nice dress and flowers and all the mushy stuff with K, and I also got a new power tool (because he knows my love language, ha). I’ll get to why I was outside to make matters worse at the end of this post, but I need to give you a Dueling DIY update first!

As we touched on with the last update, Charlotte (of At Charlotte’s House) was thinking she was probably going to be done with her guest room makeover by our next scheduled post. And since her room was a little smaller than mine, it’s not exactly a surprise that the challenge is ending sooner than I’ll actually finish all the big builds in the room (I still have the built-ins to finish, plus two custom-made pieces of furniture to create for the double-duty use of this room… a lot going on!).

But, that isn’t really ever the point of Dueling DIY. I still plan to fully finish this room, but the goal is always to light a fire under my ass and actually make some progress after years of stalling. I think my room has done just that! So, it’s time to toot my own horn a little, fully furnished or not. Let’s go wall to wall and cover the biggest leaps forward that we’ve seen thus far, and what’s yet to come!

Before: boring and cluttered

During the “before” tour, I showed you a freshly cleaned-out room. Lots had been donated to Goodwill, which was a start, but the room had ZERO personality.

Progress: a cozy corner

I added a beautiful sage green to two of the walls, and a super pale gray to a third. A final wall will be painted after the built-ins are complete (and will match the wall on the right). But how awesome does this same corner look now compared to before? The picture ledges turned out exactly as I imagined, and got a ton of my artwork out of boxes. Win!

I also added DIY curtain rods to the window that have a nifty hanging rod built in, which allowed me to create some hanging planters. I still like them, but as you can see, I already switched them out. K made that call, actually… he didn’t like that they were deliberately hanging at different heights. Since this room will serve as his office space when he needs it (and I’m trying to make him feel welcome in what was my house exclusively for years), I made a switch to pre-made ones from Amazon, and will pick my battle another day.

Before: cluttered TV wall, too-hot room

ugly boob light - guest bedroom
ugly boob light

Clutter and a boob light… snore.

Progress: a place for remotes, a comfortable breeze

I know I’m not breaking the mold with these two upgrades, but adding another picture ledge beneath the TV and a bright, breezy ceiling fan (with remote) has made this room so much more comfortable to even be in! We removed the old visible storage as well, and there will soon be a custom-built piece to fit right under the TV and house a set of K’s vintage speakers. He is really excited to develop a piece for the blog, so I may give him the reigns with that one for his first project to share his design from his POV.

As for the little nook o’ nothin’ right next to the door, that space will get a few easy shelves for K’s vintage records and video games. When the built-ins are finished, we may switch what’s displayed where; but with all his stuff moved into the house in odd places, getting things out of the living room will be a step in the right direction!

Before: the bed wall

Progress: still “the bed wall”, but way cooler!

The Murphy bed has been talked about repeatedly already, but in the last two weeks, there have been two significant changes:

  1. It’s painted the final color of the future built-ins; and
  2. I’m working on the art on the front!

The green tape in the photo was a way to visually see what size art I want on the wall. The two smaller vertical pieces are where the handles need to be for optimal leverage. My goal with the art piece is to make it so that the handles are somehow incorporated into the art, so when closed, it looks like a really cool wall and not the exposed bottom of the bed. So far, here’s what it looks like!

Murphy bed wall art

Ignore the plywood scraps behind the art… that’s just a flat surface to work on. This is a happy stopping point until I get some input from K on what we should do next (I’m thinking of adding some scroll saw pieces so it’s got some geometric and swooping shapes to it). And as for where the handles fit…

I’ve cut out a place on each side that should fit right over the handles once installed! I cut these using a scroll saw and then glued them to another piece to keep them stable (that front part of the wood that hides the handle is super thin, so it would never hold on its own). It probably still looks a little confusing with the plywood in the background, but I’ll have a post dedicate to the entire DIY process once I figure out how the rest is going to look, stain it, etc.

Dueling DIY Vlog #4

Since this is the official end of Dueling DIY: Guest Room Gauntlet, I made one last vlog update as well! You will now find four episodes over on my YouTube channel, and I’ll be adding each of these to a playlist on the Dueling DIY: Guest Room Gauntlet tag in case you ever want to see them in sequence. If you want to see more about how I plan to make the art on the Murphy bed work too, I have a short clip of the handle placement, and wait for Charlie’s input around the 2:20 mark.

And as for that reason I was outside, getting attacked by hay fever demons? Here’s a sneak peek:

Things are finally happening with the new shed and platform deck! I’ve been planning things since last fall, and things are now majorly underway. These are the big reasons I was trying to make headway with the guest room before spring, since I knew that it would be way too hard to try to do the bulk of the Murphy bed and all this at the same time. I’ve decided that I’ll batch out the posts as two separate series (series-es? hehe) so I can give more details on things like pre-treated lumber (such as when to use ground contact, etc.), framing the walls, and all that. It’s all a huge learning process for me, so I’ll pass on as much info as I can (we’re still talking about structural details that will likely vary a good bit depending on location and what codes to follow, so it might be hard to answer specific questions if they haven’t applied to me/my yard).

That’s all for now, but check in again this week. My goal is to post every other day (including weekends) until all of the goings-on have been posted about, but I have several complex tutorials in my pipeline that I’ve been wanting to share, so it’s mostly a matter of how much sleep I get until the hay fever goes away (which unfortunately after a winter of not enjoying warm weather, makes it hard to stay inside!).

So, tell me: what have you been working on or planning that you’re really excited about?

P.S. One more thing: Charlotte and my friend Erin Spain have a podcast called North South Makers, and they asked me on as their first guest interview! You can check me out on Episode 34 right here. They’re also going to be my roomies at Haven in Charleston this July. I’ll be sure to include any road trip shenanigans when we do a recap.

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Moving Soon? Here’s How to Pack For A Move Like A Pro

Let us show you how to pack for a move like a pro. Image: Erda Estremera

For many of us, packing for a move feels like a herculean task—and for good reason. There are so many different details to consider, not to mention the effort involved in lugging heavy boxes around. However, with a little forethought and planning, this process doesn’t have to feel overwhelming at all.

If you need a little guidance on how to pack for a move, you’re in the right place. Here’s some great tips to help you tackle this project like a pro.

Put together a schedule that works for you, and stick to it. Image: Estée Janssens

Schedule your time appropriately

Let’s be honest: the biggest hurdle most of us face when packing for a move is leaving it all to the last minute. Packing your belongings is a big task: it’s easy to procrastinate and find other things we’d much rather do instead. And we usually regret the decision.

Luckily, it doesn’t have to be this way. The first step to packing like a pro is making sure you schedule your time appropriately—and well in advance of moving day—so that you don’t feel overwhelmed by having to take care of everything at once. By breaking the process down into simple steps and scheduling a time to complete each one, you can tackle this process with ease.

The first thing to break out is your calendar. Take a realistic assessment of the amount of available free time you have before your moving day, and designate times for decluttering, packing up each room of your home (try to limit yourself to one or two rooms at a time), cleaning, and a final pack-up for any last-minute items.

Get rid of excess clutter before you pack. Image: Brooke Lark

Declutter first

After you have your schedule set, the next step is decluttering your current space. Save yourself some extra packing down the road: lighten the workload by taking the time to get rid of these items before you begin putting things in boxes.

When decluttering you home, we recommend the “three pile method.” Sort items that you intend to keep into one pile, items that are suitable for donation into another pile, and items that need to be thrown away into a third pile. That way, you’ll have a clear plan of action for every item.

If you can, schedule your donation pick-up for the same day you intend to declutter. This helps hold you accountable for finishing the task. Try to take care of your trash on the same day, as well. You’ll feel more accomplished knowing that a huge chunk of your work is finished, and you’ll truly be able to move forward to the next step.


Label your boxes to keep them organized. Image: Jon Tyson

Create a label system

Packing for a move is all about staying organized. Before you start the process, make sure you have a system in place that allows you to sort out what’s what when you arrive at your new home. The easiest way to do that is by creating a label system that helps you know, with just a glance, what’s in each box.

When labeling, it’s important to be as specific as possible. For example, instead of just labeling a box “kitchen,” you may want to write “kitchen – pots and pans” instead. Write your label on multiple sides of the box, so that no matter how it’s positioned, you’ll know which items are inside.

Some people like to take labeling a step further by writing a list of each individual item contained within in a box. You can do this on paper and stick it in the top of the box, or keep a digital master list. Whichever method you choose, it can save you the hassle of rooting through boxes to find the particular item you’re looking for.

room by room

Pack up one room at a time. Image Breather

Go room-by-room

Once you’re ready to start packing, we recommend undertaking the task room by room. Doing so not only helps you break the process up into more manageable steps, it also helps you keep your boxes organized. Start your packing in less-used spaces, such as the dining room and formal living area. Then, work your way up to your kitchen and bedroom as it gets closer to the big day.

Everyone has their own methods of packing. However, here are a few general reminders to help you stay organized:

  • Try to pack similar items together, rather than having each box become a catch-all.
  • You can use soft items as padding in between more breakable pieces.
  • Pack heavier items in smaller boxes to keep boxes from becoming overwhelmingly heavy.
  • Be sure to secure each box tightly with packing tape.

Fill an overnight bag full of irreplaceable items. Image: Erol Ahmed

Pack an overnight bag with important items

No one wants to think about it, but sometimes, despite our best efforts, a move can go awry and items can get lost in the shuffle. In order to make sure nothing irreplaceable gets lost, we recommend packing a separate overnight bag with important items and keeping it with you, rather than placing it on a moving truck.

The items you choose to include will be unique to you, but these suggestions may help you start thinking:

  • Clothes for a few days, and toiletries
  • Laptops and other work-related items
  • Family photos
  • Important documents (Passports, birth certificates, deeds, etc.)
  • Expensive jewelry

Have you moved recently? If so, do you have any packing tips to share? Put them in the comments below!

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3 DIY Eco-Friendly Cleaning Solutions for Your Spring Clean

eco-friendly cleaning solutions

Get your home sparkling this spring, with eco-friendly cleaners. Image: Marlowe Hues Color & Design

Spring cleaning is supposed to refresh your home. It’s a little counterintuitive, then, that traditional cleaning methods lean on harsh, often toxic chemicals to do the job. Your home may look better after using these products, but, in actuality, you’ve only swapped germs and grime for possible dangers to your family and the environment.

There’s a better way. These three eco-friendly cleaning solutions get your home sparkling while keeping it safe.

If you’re new to the do-it-yourself world, making your own cleaning solutions is a great place to start. All you need to do is throw ingredients together in a container, and you’re set. Plus, you probably already have the majority of what you’ll need on hand. Before you reach for the bleach, give these environmentally-conscious DIY cleaners a try.

all-purpose eco-friendly cleaning solutions

A DIY all-purpose cleaner can be used on virtually any surface. Image: Blue Ocean Design

The king of eco-friendly cleaning solutions: homemade all-purpose spray

Get your surfaces to sparkle with an easy solution you can use in nearly every room of the house. In a spray bottle, mix:

  • 1 part water (distilled is best)
  • 1 part white vinegar
  • Optional: 12-15 drops of essential oil (lavender and lemon are great options)

Spray this solution into a soft towel, and use on almost any surface. If you omit the essential oil, you’ll lose the refreshing scent, but can also use this solution as a glass cleaner.

Note: Vinegar isn’t safe for stone surfaces, such as marble or granite. As an alternative, a baking soda solution will get your counters shiny and spot-free.

eco-friendly cleaning solutions for the kitchen

Eco-friendly kitchen cleaners keep your surfaces safe for food preparation. Image: Showcase Kitchen & Bath

In the kitchen: natural grease remover

Getting rid of grease in your kitchen doesn’t have to be a headache. There’s a surprising solution to that pesky buildup on your stovetop: more grease!

Pour a small amount of vegetable oil onto a paper towel and rub it over grease-stained spots. The interaction of the new grease breaks down the old.

Once finished, go over the area with a damp sponge sprinkled with baking soda. This removes any residual oil, leaving your kitchen surfaces spotless.

eco-friendly cleaning solutions for the bathroom

Ditch bleach in the bathroom for a gentler–but equally powerful–cleaning solution. Image: Amy Trowman Design

In the bathroom: powerful, simple tub cleaner

If you have stubborn spots in your shower or tub, you’ve probably tried to clean it with lots of different chemicals. A surprising solution could unlock the like-new tub you’ve been looking for. Natural cleaning experts swear by this simple, eco-friendly cleaning solution.

In a spray bottle, combine:

  • 1 part white vinegar
  • 1 part blue Dawn dish soap

The specific soap formula of the blue Dawn makes the solution most effective. Plus, since it’s routinely used to remove oil from sensitive animals after oil spills, you can rest easy using it at home.

Coat your tub or shower with the spray and let it sit. 15 minutes is sufficient for mild buildup, but serious scum might require an overnight wait. After it sits, scrub the tub or shower and rinse thoroughly to reveala sparkling surface.

These eco-friendly cleaning solutions will help you tackle your spring clean without any toxic cleaners. Enjoy your beautifully cleaned home or apartment; take a deep breath of that fresh, chemical-free air!

Have any eco-friendly cleaning solutions, tips or tricks of your own? Let us know in the comments!

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The 4 Most Common Contingencies Every Home Buyer Needs To Know About


When you’re ready to buy a home, these are the contingencies you need to know about. Image: Thomas de Cruz Architects & Designers

If you’ve thought about buying a home, odds are you’ve seen the phrase “contingencies” pop up once or twice in your research. While the term can be a little intimidating at first glance, contingencies are there to protect you. These clauses indicate that certain events need to occur in order for the sale to move forward. If they don’t, you’ll be able to walk away from the sale unscathed—and with your escrow deposit securely in hand.

While the exact clauses you decide to include in your offer will be up to you, there are a few common contingencies that nearly every buyer uses. We’ve listed them below to help you get started. Read them over to learn how they can help you on your path to home ownership.


Inspection contingencies are the most common. Image: National Association of the Remodeling Industry

Inspection contingencies

Of all the available contingencies, the inspection contingency is the one that most people know about. It allows you to bring in professionals to inspect various parts of the property, and provide you with reports on their functionality and safety.

Once you have these reports in hand, you have the ability to negotiate with the seller on how to handle any necessary repairs or remediation. That said, if you can’t reach an agreement with them—or if you feel that there’s just too much work for you to handle—you can choose to terminate the sale instead. Many buyers assume that this contingency only applies to the property inspection, which covers a visual inspection of the home’s overall condition, plus its major systems, such as HV/AC, plumbing, and electric. However, there are several more inspections that can fall under this umbrella, including:

  • Wood destroying insects
  • Mold
  • Lead-based paint
  • Structural damage
  • Wells

Keep in mind: you likely won’t need to elect all of the options listed. Use your best judgment and ask the agent writing up your offer for guidance. When in doubt, though, it’s better to elect more inspections than less. You can always choose not to do one, but you can’t ask for more once your offer has been accepted.


If you need a mortgage, you’ll need a financing contingency. Image: Krueger Architecture & Design

Financing contingency

If you’re planning on paying for the bulk of your new house with a mortgage, we highly suggest that you elect to use the financing contingency. This clause states that since your ability to purchase the home hinges on getting a mortgage, you have the ability to back out of the sale if your loan falls through.

The truth is, even if you’ve done the hard work of getting a pre-approval letter before submitting an offer, the mortgage process can still be tricky. After you apply for your loan, the lender will conduct a thorough approval process called underwriting. During this process, underwriters will take an in-depth look at your finances, as well as the home you intend to purchase, and may issue a list of their own contingencies that you need to meet in order to receive the loan.

If you’re unable to meet their requirements, or if something unexpected crops up in your financials, the mortgage company reserves the right to deny you the loan. At that point, you have the choice of finding alternative financing. However, since scrambling to come up with hundreds of thousands of dollars in time for settlement is a huge risk, including a financing contingency gives you a safety net.


The appraisal contingency determines the fair market value of the home. Image: Creative Architects

Appraisal contingency

If you need a loan, be aware that most mortgages are subject to an appraisal. This means that once an appraiser determines the fair market value of your home, the mortgage company will agree to issue you a loan up to that amount. However, especially in hot markets, the appraised value of a home can end up being much lower than the sale price you negotiated with the seller. If this happens, you are responsible for covering the difference.

Luckily, the appraisal contingency exists to give you an out. It says that if the appraised value of the home is different than the negotiated sale price, you have the option not to buy. Typically, both parties will try to renegotiate the price before this happens, however, in the event that you can’t reach an agreement, it’s a nice option to have.

home sale

Unfortunately, home sale contingencies aren’t as common as they used to be. Image: Hart’s Design

Home sale contingency

The home sale contingency is exactly what it sounds like. As the buyer, you elect a home sale contingency if you have to sell your current home in order to buy a new one. It gives you a specified amount of time to find a buyer for your own home and move forward with the sale. If you’re unable to do so, you can choose to walk away from the property.

Sounds too good to be true, right? Unfortunately, for the most part it is. This contingency isn’t used nearly as often as it used to be, for one main reason: it left sellers hanging. Essentially, you’re asking them to take their home off the market with little to no guarantee of your ability to buy (which, as you can imagine doesn’t go over very well.).

While you still have the option to include this contingency, be aware that it weakens your bargaining power. If given the option, most sellers will pass over offers with this contingency for one without it, especially in busy markets.


Keep these contingencies in mind when buying. Image: M House Development

Electing contingencies is an important part of negotiating an offer on a home. While these clauses can be unique to your transaction, there are a few common contingencies that nearly every buyer will use. Knowing your options helps you negotiate in your best interest.

Are you house hunting? Do you think you’ll need to use any of these common contingencies, or do you have any contingencies you feel are absolutely key? Tell us in the comments!

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6 Creative Ways to Decorate with Books

Despite living in the age of e-readers, books are still a large part of life for many of us, even though figuring out where and how to store a growing collection can get surprisingly complicated. The obvious solution is bookshelves, which raises more questions: should you go with set-in bookshelves, shelves that dominate a wall, or small accent shelves? Of course, bookshelves aren’t the end-all, be-all of book storage. There’s baskets, floating shelves—so many more options to choose from.

Why not have a little fun? Don’t just store your books—decorate with them! Here’s some of favorite ways to use books to add some style to your space.

Color code

Decorate with Books Rainbow Shelf

Arranging books by color adds visual interest to a room. Image: Rikki Snyder

Arranging books by color is one of the most popular ways to decorate with books. In the photo above, books are used to create a beautiful rainbow of design. Using this method adds pretty pops of color to the room, creating an interesting sense of visual contrast, as well as a touch of playfulness.

You can achieve this look using compartmentalized shelving, or, try arranging books by color across one long shelf, creating a linear rainbow of hues. It’s a fun, artsy addition to any room.

Add decorative accents

Decorate with Books and Art

Compartmentalized shelving creates plenty of options for combining art and books. Image: Reliance

For a more personalized touch, try mixing in photos, pieces of art, vases and anything else you’ve managed to collect over the years among your book collection. It’s a strategy that works wonderfully in traditional styles which tend to favor a lot of decorative and visual elements in a space.

The more creative you get with the interspersed placement of art and books, the more visual interest you add to your space. Don’t feel like you have to align your books on a shelf in the usual way. Place a photo between a row of books, put a crystal bowl on top of a stack of books, or arrange a stack of books between two substantial pieces.

Decorate with books by going casual, purposefully

Decorate with Books Stack of Books

An elaborately high stack of books works wonderfully with the eclectic boho chair. Image: Teri Lyn Fisher

Sky-high book stacks are a fun addition to more casually designed spaces, such as the artsy boho room above. Place a plant or photo on top of the book tower for even more of a funky, fun vibe. Notice the flat board at the base of the book tower:  it give the books a steady base and keeps the bottommost book off the floor.

The sideways stacks of books on the floating shelving above the curtains finishes the look with a casual, used-bookstore vibe.

Get creative with shelving

Decorate with Books Built In Shelving

Create an archway of books with built-in shelving. Image: MMM Architects

Set-in shelving is a great option for the bibliophile. Feel free to get creative: put set-in shelving over doorways, under stair spaces or anywhere else it would reasonably fit in. It’s a great way to store books without taking up floor space, so built-in shelving is a good option for small spaces, too.

The photo above shows how well built-in shelving works. The geometry adds a crisp, cultured look to the space, and the shelf above the door proves that you can fit a bookshelf in anywhere if you’re enterprising enough.

Use floating shelves

Decorate with Books Geometric Shelves

Floating shelves add creative geometry to the space. Image: Lucy Call

Differing in length, the asymmetrical floating shelves pictured above create geometric interest: a solid choice for modern spaces that favor creative geometric styles. The open spaces left by the shorter shelving leaves room for added knickknacks between the books.

Use your imagination: floating shelving works over doorways, under stair spaces—practically anywhere else you have some empty wall space.

Think outside the bookcase

Decorate with Books Wagon of Books

A red wagon is an imaginative (and fun!) way to store books. Image: Tess Fine

No one says you need to stick to shelving when decorating with books. The photo above proves you can store books in just about anything, such as a bright red wagon, which adds a pop of playfulness to this child’s room.

Try placing books in wicker baskets, or linen baskets in cubby holes. If your space is more rustic, put some small books in metal buckets. The options are virtually endless.

You don’t have to simply figure out ways to store your book collection among your existing room design. Why not make them part of the design?

Have any great ideas for cleverly working books into a room? Let us know in the comments!

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