Living Room Changes – Part 2

Last time I checked in I showed you guys the beginning stages of some small changes that we’ve been making in our living room over the past few weeks and today I’m back to show you what else we’ve been up to.
The next set of changes we recently made involves a part of our living room the blog hasn’t even seen yet – our media wall. Decorating your home to accommodate that uber important TV is often challenging, and in our case, was only made worse when we purchased a larger, more obnoxious television to replace our old, on the edge of death, TV. After purchasing the larger TV, we were forced to do some furniture musical chairs when it became clear that the wall that used to house the TV, was way too small.
The previous media wall, as seen in this really bad cell phone pic, shows just how cramped the previous situation was to begin with. The TV and media cabinet were smashed up against the curtains and sliding glass door leading out to our patio leaving no extra room to accommodate a larger TV.
So…with a new TV and the realization that the existing wall was too small, we did some rearranging and moved the TV, the media cabinet, and Anthony (the antelope) to an adjacent wall with a really annoying nook that I’ve hated since the day we moved in but since it was the only other place for the new TV, we had to make it work.
The nook is off center on this wall and for a person that really gravitates towards symmetry, it’s always been a nightmare for me to decorate around. This little nook has seen quite a few changes in the 2 years that’s we’ve lived here which I plan to document in a future post, but this go-around in the nook is by far my favorite.
After moving everything over into the nook, the entire wall felt visually heavy on the left and really empty on the right, making the nook all that more prominent and irritating!
I didn’t have much space to work with on the left but I knew that it definitely needed something to visually balance everything out and with all the craziness going on to the left, I thought something clean and symmetrical would be the best solution to both my problems.
I decided to do a gallery wall of frames filled with pictures from some of our most memorable travel adventures. The inspiration for this came directly from these two awesome bloggers as seen on their sites here and here.
Ready to see how it all came together?
For the gallery wall I chose to go with these warm wood toned frames that I scooped up at Ikea. I’ve been on a mission to bring in some wood tones and textures into our home to warm things up a bit and balance out our other black furniture pieces and I think these frames did just that!
I chose vacation photos that were bright, bold, and full of vibrant colors! It’s the perfect way to display our personal memories in a very subtle way while bringing in some fun colors at the same time.
To put my own little spin on our travel adventures gallery wall, I used my all time favorite (but sadly discontinued) Martha Stewart bookplate labels on the glass of each frame to name the travel destination pictured. Great thing about this is no matter what picture you showcase, the label can always be updated easily as you add more destinations to your passport! And for those with a short term memory, you’ll always have a handy reminder of where your photo was taken!
To hang the pictures, I used every renters BFF – 3M Command Strips (you can see the little bump out of the Command Strip on the top of each frame in the photo below). Using 3M Command Strips saved me from putting 16+ nail holes in the wall and from having to patch all those holes when we leave. Plus, 3M Command Strips are re-positionable and made it easy to make sure my grid lines were nice and straight. Can’t beat that!
All in all, for all the challenges this wall & the larger TV presented us with, I’d say I’m smitten with the results! Plus I think Anthony is enjoying the new scenery too…
There’s still one more change I’m working on to round out our living room refresh, be sure to check back soon so you don’t miss out!

Our $50 Bathroom Refresh

When we were apartment searching almost 2 years ago, I swear we looked at nearly every apartment in the area that fit out price range. After what felt like weeks and months of endless searching we finally settled on the apartment that we currently call our home sweet temporary home. Emphasis on temporary. When we toured the model floor plan of what would soon be our floor plan of choice, what I remember seeing ended up being very different than what we moved into. We toured a spacious, light, bright, and beautifully staged apartment model that hit most of the items on our checklist. It made choosing this complex and floor plan and easy decision after such a hard search.
The 2 things I remember most about that tour was all the beautiful natural light and the large master bathroom with dual sinks. The master bathroom was bigger than any we had seen…it was a long room with high ceilings and no doorways – think open concept. It was spacious and equipped with dual sinks – perfect for the 2 of us who would be utilizing this space at the same time every morning. Sadly though, what we moved into was quite the opposite. Our apartment windows are literally facing the exact opposite direction as those in the model apartment, making all that beautiful natural light that I remembered nearly non-existent. And the master bathroom? Bad. Real bad. Nowhere near the example of the model apartment. The trickery!
I remember moving in and grabbing a box to deposit in the master bathroom and stopping dead in my tracks. I swear we were given the wrong apartment. Our master bathroom is literally half in length of the model we had seen. A doorway separates the carpeted (gag) sink area from where the toilet and shower/tub are located and the door to the toilet/shower area opens inward and barely clears the toilet by about an inch…if that. The high ceilings are non-existent too. In fact, there’s a huge bulkhead above our sink area making it feel cramped and dungeon-like…a far cry from the large master bathroom I was expecting to get. I almost cried. I was so confused that I called the leasing office and was informed that the model apartment we were shown had been retrofitted to be handicap accessible, thus meaning that all 1st floor, handicap accessible apartments had higher ceilings, wider doorways, or no doorways at all, making our 2nd floor apartment master bathroom layout entirely different, considerably smaller…and here’s the kicker…being that we were on the 2nd floor, our ceilings, particularly in the bathrooms and hallways were indeed considerably lower that those of the apartments on the 1st and 3rd floors. Ugh.
Here’s what I’ve been working with over the last year:
Not good, not bad. But knowing what I saw in the beginning, the bathroom situation could be way better. Especially if I lived on the 1st or 3rd floor. But I digress.
Unfortunately, being in a rental, there isn’t anything you can do structurally. Recently, not having a place of our own that’s ours has been weighing heavily on me. It’s hard living in a space that isn’t yours, your taste, your style, or one you can freely make changes to without the fear of paying for them later. But…this bathroom has bothered me so much over the last year, that I couldn’t let that derail me. Even though I cant build the bathroom that dreams are made of, I have to make do with what we have. Just because I hate our current bathroom situation, doesn’t mean I can’t pretty it up to make it just a tad bit more bearable in the meantime.
I’ve been wanting to “decorate” this bathroom for some time as a way to make it a little easier to deal with its shortcomings. Over the weekend, I did just that. It only took a few hours (most of that time was dry time) and it only cost me about $50. That’s about all the time and $$ this cruddy bathroom deserves anyways. #kidding #sorta
Without a whole lot of bathroom are that could be addressed, or much that I could actually change, I figured that zhusing up the boring apartment standard mirror would bring the most visual impact and give me the most bang for my buck. I thought about making a simple frame for the large mirror but decided to take it a step further and do something a bit different. I’d been on the hunt for some over sized frames to bring this vision to life but…I’m el-cheapo here, so it took forever to find a pair of frames that matched, were light weight, had visual interest, and didn’t cost 8 million dollars. I know! A lot of must haves to contend with.
After several weeks of searching, and nearly scrapping this idea all together…I received this picture from my Mom:
She found these gaudy gold, plastic, oval mirrors at the Swap Meet for $15 a piece. Minus the mirror part, they were perfect for the bathroom project I had in mind! Aren’t Moms the best? Yes…they totally are! Love, ya Mom! (We’ll see if she really reads my blog after all – ha ha)
With mirrors in hand, I removed the paper backing, the mirrors, and painted the frames white. Don’t forget to paint the underside of the frames too. The underside of the frame will reflect against the mirror if it’s not painted too. Once dried, I used every renters best friend, 3M Command Strips for picture hanging. I positioned the strips all around the frame, and then attached each frame to the large bathroom mirror making sure each frame was centered over each sink. I didn’t bother trying to measure exact placement, I just eyeballed it.
Ah, instant upgrade!

The only other items I added were 2 new clear glass soap dispensers ($12) and 2 new white hand towels ($8). We had everything else already. I decided to go with an all white color scheme because the space was so dark to begin with that it just really needed something to lighten it up and when I think of all white bathrooms, I think of spas and who doesn’t love spas? Now walking into this dungeon every morning puts a little pep in my step.
The apothecary jars are dual purpose and I just love them. They house every day essentials like Q-Tips, cotton balls, an bath salts that just so happen to match the all white, spa-like feeling I was going for. They’re pretty to look at and the clear glass doesn’t obstruct or take away from the overall space. I love using pretty vessels to house ordinary items.
I brought in a little blue and white bud vase that I found at the thrift store a while ago and popped in some pink flowers for a punch of color. I’ve never had flowers in the bathroom before, but now…I’m a fan! It’s impossible to be grumpy and crabby in the morning when flowers are around!
The last little detail of this bathroom refresh is this oval wooden tray. It was a last minute addition that didn’t get photographed during my first round of shots but I found it in my stash and thought it was the perfect size to corral my bobby pins (in a cute dish of course) or small jewelry such as earrings or bracelets. The wood adds a much needed warmth and texture to the space and really rounds it off beautifully.

Not bad for $50, eh? A few thrifty finds and shopping your house can go a long way to amp up any space. Not being able to change much else, I think this is exactly what our bathroom needed. I’m now wondering why I didn’t do something sooner in here and scheming up ideas for our much larger guest bathroom. Adding frames, whether they’re over sized, chunky picture frames or from a mirror to a boring apartment standard mirror is an easy and temporary way to update your apartment rental bathroom without having to pay for the damage later! Using the 3M Command Strips makes it easy to remove with no evidence that it was ever there. Love those things! My only suggestion is to find a frame with a semi-flat back so that the Command Strips have a flat surface to adhere to. Also, use caution when removing the frames. Don’t get all Hercules on them. Slow and steady wind the race.
Down the line, I may change out these oval frames for something more…dare I say…gender neutral? The filigree frames did go a bit girly-glam real fast and being that my boyfriend uses this bathroom too, I ought to find some chunky, over sized, rectangular frames that would put this bathroom back in the neutral zone. But…he’s a trooper and gives me free reign, so until then, I’m hating on this bathroom a little less these days 🙂

Garden Stool End Table

One of the things I love the most is when a project is easy, it takes very little time, and it requires very little moo-la. This past weekend I worked on a bunch of small projects that didn’t take too much of my time and by the end of the weekend I felt like I had accomplished so much! Don’t you love it when that happens?! I know I sure do.
Let’s talk couches for a second, shall we?
 Did you know that the average couch measures anywhere from 6-8 feet long? Our couch measures just over 11 feet! That means our ginormous couch far surpasses the average by a third! When we moved into our previous apartment, the main wall was a whopping 16 feet long!!! Both the couches we had previously owned prior were worn, dated, and just looked disproportionate up against the massive wall. So…we went couch shopping, found a great no-interest for 16 months deal, and purchased this 11 foot beast. We paid it off in 12 months thanks to my financially smart guy and it really is the most comfortable couch in all the land. What we didn’t anticipate or take into consideration (our bad) was if/when we ever moved (which we eventually did) and how this massive couch would dictate which apartments we could/could not live in.  Our apartment search was brutal. All because of a stupid couch. We looked at and had to turn down so many other apartment communities all because the main living area didn’t have a space large enough to accommodate our couch. #lessonlearned
All in all everything worked out, as most things do, and we decided (settled?) on the apartment we’re in now. Our couch barely fits along the main wall, but hey…it fits. Which brings me to the project I’m blogging about today.
The main wall in our current apartment is approx. 13 feet long. Our couch clocks in at a tad over 11 feet. Which means that on either end of the couch I have about a foot of space to work with, if that. Immediately after moving in and placing the couch, I realized that end tables just weren’t going to work. Bummer dude. I tried shoving the couch to one side and having an end table on the other but then my OCD kicked in and I just wasn’t having it. Out went the tables.
Last summer I was in HomeGoods and found myself in the garden section when I spotted the solution to all my problems. Garden stools. The new end table for small spaces. They’re small, compact, they offer a flat surface albeit a small surface, but hey, beggars cant be choosers so into my cart it went and decided to give it a whirl. The only problem? It was green. Mean green.
Didn’t exactly go with my black, white, grey, navy color scheme I have going on. But nothing a couple new pillows with some green couldn’t fix, right? Right!
Well…not so fast.
I searched. I scoured. I came up empty handed. There are a ton of pillow options out there but none that I absolutely loved that would help make this green little stool apart of the family. So it’s sat here in the living room just waiting. Until now.
I’m working on the lamp situation too…in case you’re wondering. No side tables, no table lamps = it’s a hard life.
I found the perfect pillows but the green would have to go. Nothing a little spray paint cant fix! I tell ya, pillows and spray paint can solve just about any decorating dilemma! This mean green garden stool not only got a fresh coat of paint, it also got a tabletop! Wanna see?

I ordered a plain pine wood table top online because I couldn’t find one the perfect size at any local hardware or hobby store. It cost me less than $10. I followed the same steps to stain the tabletop as I discussed in this previous blog post and it turned out great!

Once the top was stained in my favorite Walnut stain, the garden stool got a few coats of Rustoleum’s Candy Pink in Gloss.

Originally my initial thought was to permanently adhere the table top to the garden stool but then I decided against it. If ever down the line I want to repaint the stool or actually use it in a garden some day, I’d be wishing for an easy way to remove the top and restore the stool to it’s natural state. That’s when I had my little light bulb moment and decided to attach the top using my forever favorite command adhesive strips.
Worked like a charm!

The pink may seem odd now, but it will when I show you the recent changes to the living room, it’ll all make sense. My uber supportive boyfriend didn’t even flinch a muscle at the pink. What a keeper!
The table is a lot more functional now than it ever was and can now hold drinks without the fear of them toppling over from sitting on an uneven surface. For a little over $10, this quick little DIY project solved our space issue just perfectly.
I always love finding ways to use things in unexpected ways or to use them in ways in which they weren’t originally intended. This project personifies that to a “T”!
Did any of you purchase a giant couch and had to forgo end tables because of it? What did you do to solve that dilemma? Do tell!

Cut the Clutter – Closet Clean-Out

Hey guys… and welcome to my 1st official post! Can I get a woohoo?!

I don’t know what it is about the ringing in of a new year that always has me itching for a fresh start but 2015 is no different. The day the clock struck midnight I wanted to purge like a crazy woman and get rid of all the clutter we’ve accumulated over the past 365 days and living in this smallish apartment only made this desire ever more pressing come 12:01 January 1st. Did anyone feel this way too?

January may be coming to a close but I’ve been working hard to get this place back in tip-top organized shape! One of the hardest hit areas of our house over the last year was our itty bitty coat closet that sits right off the front entrance. See for yourself:

Neat and clean? Think again! Over the last year we really used and abused this space, so much so that it was literally bursting at the seams. It was filled to the brim with so much junk that every time we tried closing the door on all that chaos, the door would pop back open.
The closet is right inside the doorway and a space we utilize everyday so it was the perfect 1st project for the new year. Since space is so limited in our apartment and because my boyfriend has 80 jackets (someone please tell him we live in California, not the North Pole), I really needed to find some storage solutions that would make this space work better than it had in the past.
So last week I decided to get this closet in order and I couldn’t be happier with the result! Read on to find out how I went from that disastrous before, to this beautiful, organized after:
 One of the first things I do when tackling an organization project like this is to take note of the areas that are causing problems and preventing the space from being and staying organized. Even though this space is really small, it still had quite a few problem areas.
The first being the blue shoe box in the upper left hand corner of the closet. In it we keep shoe polishing supplies and while it definitely makes sense for this box to stay, having it stacked on top of those other containers made getting into the other boxes a hassle. The blue bin in the upper right hand corner of the closet held extra throw blankets and for a while keeping them here made sense but when I recently consolidated all our other blankets to the 2nd bedroom closet it no longer made sense to keep blankets here as well. The other 2 major issues with this this space was the hook rail we installed on the door of the closet. The hook rail has great potential but we were using it to hold too many bulky items that would be better suited elsewhere and I think this was a major contributing factor to the door not staying closed. The last problem area in this little closet was the mail bin we have shoved all the way in the back of the closet. It was too big, too heavy and it wasn’t a great way to keep our mail or other paperwork organized.
After identifying all the problem areas, I always like to clear everything out of the space and start fresh. And when I say everything, I mean EV-ERY-THING! It really helps to see what you’re working with and get a visual for how you can utilize a space better. Once I cleared everything away I started sorting through all the junk and made 3 piles…a pile to keep, a pile to donate, and a pile to trash. From this little closet I had one trash bag to donate and one trash bag to throw away. Crazy!! That’s an insane amount of stuff shoved into a teeny tiny space!
Once I had sorted through all the contents I gave the closet a good scrub down, vacuum, and made a few cosmetic changes. We already had this hook rail from Ikea but I decided to give it a face lift with some leftover paint I already had on hand. Now we hang less bulky items here like our keys, scarves, umbrellas, and even my purse! Its a great little rail to unload all our items after just walking in the door. I also used the same paint to paint the edge and handles of the wicker basket that sits on the closet floor which I’ll use to hold any items that I need to return or ship out. Something as simple as paint can breathe life into items you already own and make them feel new again and the best part is that it doesn’t cost any money so long as you have the supplies on hand!
Another quick and easy fix for any closet is to change out your old plastic hangers. I’ve been slowly changing out all our plastic hangers over the last few years for these inexpensive ones from Ikea and they really just take any closet up a notch. They come in several great colors and every time I make a trip to Ikea, I grab a set or 2 so the conversion from cheap-o plastic hangers is a little easier on the wallet. As silly as it sounds, having matching hangers instantly and visually de-clutters even the messiest of closets.
To solve our mail issue, I added 2 wire baskets to the back of the door that I picked up from Home Goods and attached them using 3M Command Strips and Hooks. Paneled doors such as these are usually hollow so I couldn’t use nails to hang up my baskets, plus these 3M Command Strips save you from having to patch any nail holes which makes them renter-friendly! And the best part about these hooks, is that even for a short girl like me, I’m able to grab top basket, bring it down to put what I need in it and hang it back up, no problem. When organizing closet spaces, don’t forget to use the back of the door when you can! It’s a great way to maximize space and clean up the clutter with some inexpensive baskets and hooks!
We now have a basket for incoming mail and one for outgoing mail. I printed up some simple labels on the computer, backed them on some fun scrapbook paper, ran them through my laminator (what, you don’t have a laminator? Well…you really should! I use this inexpensive one I snagged at Target and it totally rocks!), hole punched them, and tied the on with some fun grey and white rope I found in the gift wrap section at Target.
Aren’t these labels so cute? Super easy too and now there’s no mistaking what goes where! Now all our mail has a fun and organized place to live and it doesn’t have to hide in the depths of our closet like it did before! And while I was at it, I made labels for all the other containers too. The 2 clear bins now hold all our loose cords and chargers and emergency kit supplies like flashlights, batteries, tape, etc. Relocating the blankets in the blue bin made space to store all our reusable bags, lunch bags, and our shoe polishing supplies. 
Total Project cost:
2 wire baskets from Home Goods – $9.00 ea – $18.00 total
2 sets of 3M Command Hooks – $3.49 ea – $7.00 total
Grey and white rope from Target – $2.99
Everything else – already owned
Project Grand Total – $28.00
And that’s that, folks! What do you think? Do you have some closets that have seen better days? What have you done to contain the clutter?