Decorating home, one element at a time.

Category Archives: Design and Decorating Musings

Rachel here.

I know, right?! (<—- the valley girl phrase that I try to avoid, but it works so well here and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t kinda like it.)

Remember me? I once participated in this blog and then as my kind (and patient) co-blogger pointed out, I was hit with what shall simply be known as the first trimester. Anyway, 31 weeks have past and believe it or not, within that time I have “cobbled.” However, this cobbling has been different, as it has occurred under the affliction of a pregnant-brain. I’ll just say that my mind is more cluttered than my house. I find myself overwhelmed with projects and the pressure to complete them (and then blog about them!).

I’m sure this doesn’t affect just a pregnant brain. All one really needs is a job, or kids, or errands, or commitments, or a husband, or friends, or really- A LIFE- in order to keep one away from the passions that really shouldn’t be overwhelming.

Unfortunately, I am the type of person that needs consistency and routine, because once I’m “out of it,” it can be hard to get back “in to it.” I blame my perfectionist approach to all matters artistic and the unnecessary pressure I put on myself. However tonight as I chatted with Jackie and continued to tackle the projects of the house (which I love to do), I realized (or remembered? #pregnantbrain) that cobbling really is a process. Sometimes it takes time to “get it right” and that’s okay (#themonalisawasn’tpaintedinaday)

So I’m back! And while I may be rusty at blogging and flustered with all of the projects- that’s okay.

Remember this?

I bought if for super affordable ($10? $15?) off of craigslist for this space in the hall (aerial view from stairs):

After debating about paint colors and lining prints, I realized that the only thing I knew for sure I wanted to do with it was add some hairpin legs.

I credit Jackie for this inspiration, as she had just completed a beautiful bench using such hardware! Here is a teaser for her upcoming post. Look at those legs!!

I measured the height I wanted to add to the piece to bring it to an appropriate height and found another great deal for the 8″ legs, this time on ebay. I should mention too that not only do hairpin legs make for a classic mid-century modern look, but they are very strong. This was important as the shelf is already heavy as it is made of solid wood and I planned to house my prized mid-century modern collection in it, too.

After an easy installation process (I’ll let Jackie get into those details) and what was probably a good month of deliberating about all of the many possibilities of how I could change/paint/cobble it, I realized that what it wasn’t for was for collecting mail or all of the other things that got shoved into its useful cubbies.

This was going to have to be a work-in-progress.

Though I’m now pleased to say, I’m happy with it as it is! I guess I just needed some time to realize it. Maybe it will change someday? I won’t worry about it ūüôā

Look at those legs!!

Editor’s note: I went back and reread my “The Cobbling Patient” post which started this project. Funny enough- I used the phrase “the mona lisa wasn’t painted in a day” back then, too (sans the frivolous hashtag). I guess this is a lesson I keep learning.

I’m back!


Jackie here with a second installment of The Thrifty-Stylish Nursery. Missed the first installment? Get up to speed here: The Thrifty-Stylish Nursery, Part One: Color.

(A little color commentary on my real life: I totally intended to finish these posts BEFORE the birth of my second child, known fondly around our place as the Newcomer, but I totally¬† didn’t. On June 12, our sweet little Margot (MAR-go) was born and is now inhabiting the nursery I had such fun putting together.)

Let me take you on a quick photo tour of the furniture I put in Margot’s room. Furniture choices were key, as the nursery is a mere 8′ x 6′. Here’s what I filled the space with:

In this corner is a changing table I bought second-hand from Oliver’s former speech therapist, with a shelf my family has been carting around for years placed above it. I wanted the changing table specifically because 1) I like to have somewhere I can stand up to change diapers and 2) a second-hand changing table was a thrifty purchase (I spent less than $50 bucks) and I know I’ll be able to sell it myself when baby Margot’s all done with it.

Opposite the changing table, on the other side of the window, is a five-drawer dresser I got from Midland Arts and Antiques. It’s a fantastic piece with a little Indiana history—it was made in Bloomington, Ind. in the ’20s—so not only is it good-looking and useful, it has a little historical panache.

A fantastic dresser can take many forms and can be found in all kinds of random places; I recommend hitting up garage sales, thrift stores, antique shops, and the ever-enthralling Craigslist. What should you be looking for? All-wood construction, no major structural damage, and the size/shape you’ve deemed appropriate for your space. What should you not care so much about? DON’T avoid a dresser just because it has urgly hardware/draw pulls/etc. Hardware is remarkably easy and inexpensive to replace, and if you’re willing to do a little looking or crafting, you can probably find something quirky and unique. I did a quick drawer pull search on Etsy and found these sweet robot drawer pulls that I might get for Oliver at a future date. If you’re a bit more adventurous, you can look past color/stain and redo the piece yourself (provided you’re not currently pregnant—fumes + baby=no es bueno) or with a kind friend/spouse/etc.

Annnnd lastly: a crib. A crib is, of course, a no-brainer (unless one is of the co-sleeping club, which I am not because I had too many panicked dreams post-Oliver’s birth of him being lost in the blankets of our bed, and I’d wake up in a sweat, clobber my husband to consciousness in my hysteria, only to discover that Oliver had been sleeping safely in his room all night….) My crib is from¬†IKEA, and I can’t speak more highly of what they have to offer. For between $70-130, you can get a crib that is perfectly safe—because the law requires it to be—and has those great modern lines of Swedish design. (And, BTW, if you’re looking for a crib that converts to a toddler bed, IKEA’s cribs do that, too.) Mattresses range from $35-80—also incredibly reasonable.

Now, you’ve probably noticed that my furniture items don’t match. I’m not bothered by this (the only matchy-matchy that exists in my house is my husband and I have matching dressers and nightstands in our bedroom, and all of our dining room chairs are the same)—I tend to be more interested in the principle of “does it go?” rather than “does it match?” If you like everything matching, okay. Just know that there’s NO RULE that says everything has to match exactly in order to look good. I made all of my pieces make sense together by using color—you’ll notice all of the orange, green, and purple throughout the room—as well as the use of repeating shapes (circles, squares—but more on that when I discuss the room’s accessories). So, embrace the hodgepodge; choose meaningful pieces that you both need AND respond to; and don’t feel obligated to drop tons of money just to make thing match.

Inspired by my co-blogger who was able to confess that “older doesn’t always mean better,” I have decided to follow her lead and admit something myself: My house has a motif.

Okay, maybe that doesn’t sound so bad, but when I first noticed it my eyes grew large and my mind raced with fear!¬† My God…does my house have a theme?!?!

I shuddered. No joke.

In my defense, while it seems obvious to me now I genuinely had no recognition of what I had done. As a general rule I avoid any type of “theme” rooms, “matchy-matchy” or mass-produced sets of anything.

(NOTE: If you have a bathroom decked out in rubber duckies, do not be offended. If you like rubber duckies, then you probably like that bathroom and your objective has been achieved.)

After my initial panic I calmed down, analyzed my situation and was able to turn my perception around. I didn’t have a “theme,” but rather a “motif.” This is allowable. Reoccurring patterns/shapes/subjects/etc. are useful in any design concept as the repetition brings unity. In fact, cobbling is a wonderful venue for this principle of art. Also, my motif isn’t limited to a single room or space, but spans the first floor and (now that it’s warm) even the outside!

So today’s decorating recommendation: discard the “theme” and embrace the “motif.” Here is mine:


Aw. That’s such a Pollyanna post title. Doesn’t sound much like everyday-Jackie, but there’s something about decorating that makes me wax optimistic. Maybe it’s because I get so darn attached to every decor purchase I make or project I complete. Or maybe it’s because I’m so dang CHEAP I can’t stand the heartbreak that comes when something I’ve put money into doesn’t work out. Or is destroyed, at least in part, as is the case in the two examples I offer here.

Exhibit A, Before: A salvaged window that I painted yellow and green for hanging in my living room.

Exhibit A, After: Sigh. Gravity. Perhaps an ill-timed rumble of an 18-wheeler down Indianapolis’ US-40. We’ll never know for sure.

Exhibit B, Before: A lovely red lamp my mum bought for me at Midland Arts and Antiques downtown.

Exhibit B, After: Sadly, there is no photo of what happened when my son knocked the lamp on the floor and shattered the shade, because I was too busy weeping in the chair to take one, and my husband was too concerned with making sure no feet-shredding glass remained on the floor to create a photo-journalistic record of the event.

So, here we have two decor items very much liked but no longer usable in their original conditions. The window’s glass is all gone. The red lamp’s lovely shade is smashed to bits. Time to chuck the items and move on, right?


So my husband and I stashed the shadeless lamp and the glassless window in the basement until such time as they would be needed to decorate again. And that time DID come, rather recently in fact, and here are our two repurposed disasters today:

The salvaged window, along with the [somehow also glassless] transom window we removed from our kitchen during its remodel now provide a geometric visual over our dining room desk area. And the lamp (on the right and in closeup) is completely revitalized with a coat of gray spray paint and a new shade I picked up for $5 at Midland. All that I needed to do to find the perfect new shade was 1) measure the diameter of the opening where the shade sits and 2) keep my eyes open each time I was in an antique/thrift/etc. establishment.

Lesson: Broken doesn’t have to mean over. (Thank goodness, or I’d still be crying over that lamp.) If you’ve got the room and love the item that’s damaged, hang on to it and see if you can’t bring it back to life in a new way. I might even like our second-time-around versions of each of these items a bit more than the first!

I (Jackie) can’t believe I’m about to write this, but, sometimes older isn’t better.

(Let me cry a minute.)

Okay. *wipes eyes* It’s true. But let me explain.

On Saturday, my friend Kayla and I went to White River Salvage (on 30th, on Indy’s westside) in search of, well, a number of things, but the item I’ll mention here is the one to which I’m applying the S.O.I.B. I uttered above: doors.

I’ve been kicking around this idea of forging a guest space in my rather ridiculously long living room (it’s about 13′ wide by 22′ long, cut in half visually and spatially by the front door–check out the top photo for the sense of the room, and the photo below it for a gander at the corner under consideration for ‘guest space’). Why? Ours is a two-bedroom house, and since nearly all of our family/friends do NOT live in Indy, we have guests frequently. However, though I DO want this guest space to be significant and include some privacy feature, I DON’T want it to be permanent. So I have tasked myself with devising an entirely portable yet AWESOME guest space that includes some privacy-creating element. Sure, we could just do the air mattress in the middle of the living room (we’ve done this), but I wanted to see if I could manage something a bit more.

And for that—for privacy without permanence—I thought, how about some room dividers?

For those of you who know me and how I like to decorate, you will not be surprised to hear that my reflex-action after deciding I wanted room dividers was NOT to jump in my car and head to the nearest store to see what I could purchase from the mass market. Instead, I went online to see how I might MAKE said item, or where/how I could acquire room dividers vintage or in some other state of old or interesting. I find the easiest way to avoid cookie cutter decorating is to avoid starting every decorating quest at the Big Box store nearest you.

(And this makes me think of a scenario where older WAS better: Recently my husband and I purchased a new-to-us desk at Domistyle—a fabulous Indy resale store on the near southeast side—for $50. It’s solid wood and doesn’t resemble any desk I’ve seen around. What will $50 at a Big Box store get you? Actually…$50 might not be enough to get you anything. But if it does, it’s going to be pressed particleboard, and it’s not going to be particularly unique. So if you’ve never thought well-made/special furniture was possible on a budget, it is. Check out our find, paired with the sewing chair I reupholstered.)

But back to the Case of the S.O.I.B. Based on my online research, I’d gotten it into my head that it might be cool to use old doors to make these room dividers. I imagined them looking so awesome I’d be able to, when the guest room was not needed, fold them up and secure them to the two short walls on the south side of my living room, thus adding a touch of panache to the decor at that end of the room (as well as storing my dividers till the next guest arrived)

So there Kayla and I were, at White River Salvage. And we found doors. Many, MANY doors. The problem? All of the doors we found were priced, on the cheap end, at around $200 (and the worst of them were closer to $2000).

So here comes the S.O.I.B: Though these doors had all of the uniqueness I wanted in my space, I sure wasn’t willing to drop hundreds and hundreds of dollars to make some room dividers. Heck, I COULDN’T: I don’t have that kind of money. Kayla and I left White River Salvage without doors, and I departed with a mind working frantically on a new idea.

Now what? I had found a few old doors for not-a-billion-dollars on Craigslist, but I decided it would 1) take too long and 2) be too much of a hassle to stalk/contact/physically procure enough doors for my project. Next step, then? Hit the internet one more time, find a new idea.

And that’s where I am today. I have my new idea. A post on DIY Furniture at, uh, Women’s Day (first time for everything–proof that all sources can have kicky fun ideas), has set me right again. The folks of Women’s Day suggest snagging some hollow-core doors and transforming them into a divider. And at ~$20 apiece, hollow-core doors are an inexpensive way to immediately have the structural component one needs for this type of project. Where you go from there (will your doors remain looking like doors, but with some kind of paint treatment? or will you transform them with another manner of embellishment, like fabric? or something else entirely?) is completely up to you/your brain.

But wait, Jackie, aren’t hollow-core doors basically on the same level as¬† particle board furniture? Well: yes and no. They certainly aren’t the most remarkable product on the planet, but I’m not suggesting you install them in your doorways. Instead, I’m suggesting that a prudently-priced item can be used as a building block for something entirely unique. In this, you’re elevating a modest item into something more than it ever could have been on its own. You can facilitate a transformation.

So that’s that: That’s the end of my S.O.I.B. admission moment. But here’s the take home message: regardless of old, new, expensive, or thrifty, the best decorating makes everything you bring into your house YOURS.

How-to and pictures to come as I move forward with my room divider project!

Rachel here. Is it too early to divulge the most needed quality and yet, worst part of cobbling? Dah well, here it is: Patience.

Who hasn’t suffered from and with it? I could approach this¬†valuable attribute¬†from¬†different angles:

  • As a former art teacher… patience was needed when sixth grade boys insisted on including guns in every¬†composition (Arkansasans are born in camo) or when the “mature” high school male was¬†so inspired in his painting that he would not restrict his paints to the canvas.
  • As a current admission counselor…(still) dealing with some high schoolers who live in an instant world and who expect immediate gratification without necessarily exerting any effort.¬†Having patience can be helpful when working with people who lack it.
  • As a painter/artist…well, the Mona Lisa wasn’t painted in a day.

Now in my cobbling… Patience consumes the process as I’m planning, visualizing, searching, waiting, searching some more, arranging, waiting again- all in the goal of creating a unique space. Maybe if I controlled time and could put everything else off? Or just ignored “everything else” that needs to be done in a day? Hmm…

It’s¬†hard for me to cope with an incomplete space and I have a fair share of those. However, I try¬†not to compromise my design aesthetic and goals just to have a space be “done”…if indeed that is a stage that can be attained.

One such incomplete space is at the bottom of my stairs:

Early on I decided that I didn’t want¬†an everyday,¬†entry way/console/sofa table. Since the space is visually unavoidable and predictable, why settle for the expected?

I’ve¬†envisioned¬†a real piece de resistance: an old card catalog, an antique radio, a gossip/telephone table, some type of old store display cabinet… whatever it would be, I knew I’d know it when I saw it.

And then, I did. And that’s the best feeling- to have your patience met- the waiting over (I¬†know Jackie knows exactly how this feels, but for more than just cobbling!).

Let’s call this “before” and I ask your patience as I transform it into “after.” Hopefully soon!

Rachel and I are at that age when every time we turn around, another one of our friends is pregnant. Not that I can say anything: as I write this, I’ve just turned the corner, flipped the page, whatever, into 31 weeks pregnant with my second baby, a girl who is due June 9. Every time I turn around, there’s a Bundt-cake-ish sized protuberance revolving with me.

And babies bring all sorts of inevitabilities, the most psychologically arresting of which is, no, not that fact that one is going to be for all time a parent to a complex, somewhat inscrutable human being, but that one will have to assemble a practical and attractive nursery.

Well: I am assuming. A nursery doesn’t HAVE to be attractive. But I am hoping that a small measure of hubris on my part is allowed in assuming your interest in this because you are here reading a decorating blog.

(No, really, it’s a decorating blog.)

I was particularly thrilled to prep this baby’s nursery because we were renting when we had Oliver. I did ask my landlady at the time if we might paint a room or two in our duplex—I was excited to try out a color palette in Oliver’s room-to-be. Her response? “Oh yeah, if I can pick the colors.”

Oh. Huh. Okay…never mind.

Our house isn’t large—it’s a two-bedroom home—so my husband and I decided to put the baby in the little bonus room off our bedroom—my Virginia Woolf room, the room of my own, that was initially loved and adored and persuasive in our home purchase because it would be a space for me to work and write. (Now I work and write on the couch…the laptop made me do it.) Here’s the room as we first saw it, before we bought the house:

Since the room was initially intended for me, I decided on wall color as I always do: I wanted something saturated. We opted to paint our bedroom Sherwin William’s Drizzle (a bluey-green), and my VW room one color down the color swatch, Lagoon. Here are a couple of pics, taken shortly after we bought the house and began customizing, that show the colors we chose and the relationship of the VW room to the master bedroom.

When we found out it was time to convert the VW room to a nursery for Baby Girl, I was determined to keep the same saturated color I’d initially chosen for the room. I can’t wrap my brain around wanting to paint a baby’s room a light color—I don’t generally care for them to begin with, and, further, babies don’t particularly respond to pastel colors as newborns because their eyesight isn’t fully developed yet. And I admit I tend to be opposed to what mass culture says I ought to do in my child’s room. So no light pink, light blue, light green, light whatever for me.

Not that pastels can’t be okay—I have an Indy friend who painted her daughter’s nursery a pale pink—but she didn’t pair her pale pink with myriad other pale colors, instead opting for a bold black and white zig-zag rug for the floor and other color-rich prints and pictures for around the room. So if your particular aesthetic says, oh I must have light walls in my little one’s room, see what interesting non-pastel accessories, etc, you can bring in to contrast with that. (More on that later.)

Once I knew I’d be keeping my Lagoon room, I got to choose a set of colors to go with. I headed off to Michael’s to stand in the aisle of acrylic paint—to wait for inspiration to strike me. (Why there and not Lowe’s, Home Depot, Sherwin Williams, you wonder? I knew I’d be using the colors on small projects, where a tube of acrylic paint would come in loads handier than a bucket of interior.) Here’s what I settled on: Light Blue Violet, Brilliant Yellow Green, and some kind of Orange (that’s the top of one of my fav vases shown in the pic). These three colors have guided all subsequent decorating/accessorizing choices for the room, the first of which is here in the picture: I redid a shelf that’s been around in my family for YEARS in Light Blue Violet.

When my brother Addison first saw a posted pic of the completed shelf, his response? “That shelf is still around?!”

Oh yes, brother. It would be cobble-remiss of me not to re-purpose perfectly good shelving—here’s our first glance at the “thrifty” part of the Thrifty-Stylish Nursery: look for items you already have and see if you can “refresh” them for a new decorating scenario. And the shelf was my first opportunity to enact the accent palette—more opportunities to be detailed soon; I’ve got to bail now to go play outside with my nap-spurning Oliver.