ALL POSTS IN House Diaries

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Today I’m welcoming you inside my house to show you a space that does, indeed, delight me daily — it’s my den. Everyone deserves a home that is filled with items that inspire them and that reflects their personality (and just makes them feel really good). My little Tennessee abode does just that, but no room does it better than the den.

Cozy Den

Everything in this room means something to me. In front of the sofa (not pictured) is a china cabinet that holds my grandmother’s china and crystal.

The room is really a bedroom, but since I’m a bachelor and don’t have a ton of house-guests, keeping it a guest room seemed like a waste (the sofa is a pullout — so I am somewhat of a welcoming host). I just love the coziness of the space and the atmosphere at night when all of the lamps are on. The back wall is filled with plates and pictures that I have collected from antique stores along with treasured family photos.

Grant Gets Super Real

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Moving into a new house or apartment is like trying on someone else’s clothes. You might like your friend’s patterned dresses or covet her high heels, but her outfits likely don’t feel like “you.” That’s exactly how I felt when I came home every day to a front door decked out in maroon and white*:

Front Door Before Shot
Is it the ugliest color combination out there? No. Does it speak to my love of bright colors? Also no. Luckily, adding fresh front door paint is a super-quick update; mine took about half a day.  Read on to see my new and improved front door hue.

See the Updated Front Door

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When you’re decorating a home, it’s easy to get caught up in a dream world of perfectly organized closets and modern-retro kitchen remodels. It’s especially easy to fall into this trap when your job is to look at amazing, designer rooms five days a week. (By the way: Not complaining.)

The downside of all this dreaming is that the “right now” sometimes gets a little neglected. Case in point: My mudroom. Sure, one day I’d love to have built-in cabinetry and vaulted ceilings, but that doesn’t mean I should wait until the 12th of never to make the space functional. But still, I waited, meaning that the first thing I saw when I walked through the door every day for close to a year was this mess:

Entryway Before

Last weekend, I decided enough was enough. After all, I had most of the materials I’d need to turn this room around: framed photos, a mirror, rocking chairs, pillows, a bench.  All it needed was a few extra accessories and a little elbow grease. Read on to see the transformation.

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I’m the proud owner of a great house that came equipped with the world’s most hideous kitchen cabinets: 

Horrible, huh? (Yes, that is contact paper peeling off the drawer. I know…ew.) A full kitchen remodel isn’t happening anytime soon, so I’m relying on the budget decorator’s best friend — paint — to make my cabinets more beautiful.

Since I’ll be giving the paneled walls a whitewash treatment, I’m leaning towards colorful cabinets to liven up my kitchen. I’m in love with the cool Caribbean blue of these cabinets designed by TD[S] Furniture + Cabinetry:

TDS Furniture and Cabinetry - Blue Kitchen Cabinets
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Oh, the embarrassment. I’ve shown y’all this photo of my bedroom a couple of times, but it doesn’t get any easier. When I first moved into my first house, my “master” bedroom looked like this:

Modern Bedroom Before

Luckily, it can really only go up (literally) from a lonely mattress on the floor. Ready to see what it looks like now?

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Do you ever get the feeling that things would be so much easier if you just had a totally-not-evil twin? If I did, I would dispatch said stylish twin to do half the home projects I had planned, leaving me to actually accomplish the other half. You see, we’ve been enjoying spring at our new house, as well as planting, raking and building flower beds (more on that later!). All this has left our bedroom project languishing a little.

But aside from amassing inspiration and used furniture, we did make one big update: After months of sleeping on the floor, we finally have a new vantage point, in the form of this Danish modern-style bed:

Modern Bedroom in Progress

Miles enjoys his new view.

Actually having a centerpiece for the room has motivated me to finish the makeover. This weekend, we’ll be painting the walls a warm gray shade, and adding accents in green, turquoise and yellow. (Sorry, tangerine fans, the brighter palette won out.)

Bedroom Color Palette Reveal

I’ll keep you posted on the progress! To see more about my inspiration for this room, follow my bedroom design board on Pinterest.

Bedroom Pinterest Board

My bedroom inspiration board on Pinterest

Read Liz’s previous House Diaries posts here and follow her home inspiration board on Pinterest.

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Along with a ring of keys, lots of possibilities and a bunch of mysterious light switches, homeownership comes with a bucketful (or maybe more like a truckload full) of “Aha!” moments.

Gray Cedar House From Above

Signs of spring at our house

At just four months in, we’ve had a few of these moments. Exhibit A: We now know every project takes twice as long as we thought it would. (I’m talking to you, master bedroom.) But many things are still yet-to-be-discovered. Luckily, I have all of you to thank for some stellar advice gleaned from your own years spent living with bad carpeting, remodeling dust and wood paneling.

As I kick my bedroom project into high gear (color palette picks coming soon), I thought I’d share some of the best advice I’ve gotten so far — from you!  Then tell me: What do you wish you’d known when you bought your first house?

Start Small
“Fix the cheapest, fastest issue first so you will begin to build your momentum.”
-Mary W.

Don’t Rush Into Big Projects
“I have owned 3 houses and it is a mistake to do big renos until you’ve lived there for at least a year. I hated my current kitchen so much that it was our first project. Had I lived with it awhile, I would have made different choices.
- Lee

Create a Dust-Free Zone
“Take care of your master bedroom first! It is your sanctuary and your place to go when you can’t stand the mess in the rest of the house. Who cares what the visitors think when they walk into your kitchen? Make your bedroom beautiful 100 percent, right down to the sheets before you move on to the next room. Which, by the way, should be your master bath. It will get your through it! Just sayin.’”
- AspenKate

It’s Worth It…Really!
“My house was built in 1950; I purchased it in 1998. The remodeling has been a labor of love as it continues.I would pick a vintage home with good ‘bones’ over a new one any day (I have had both).”
- Fay via HGTV’s Facebook Page

“Every home I’ve ever bought entailed an entire rehab. I know what will be dealing with but I also know the satisfaction you will gain from “making it your own” and seeing transformations you can be proud of…There is so much opportunity for improvement it will be an adventure and things can only get better (that’s the upside).”
-Frugal Interiors

The Remodel Never Ends
“Don’t think this list will ever end. Once you get through your initial list, a brand new one will pop up unexpectedly. Things that you never noticed will suddenly start making you shudder with distaste every time you walk past them. I am 3 years, countless projects and over $20,000 into my first home, and my list of “to dos” is longer than when I moved in. ”
-MizzyD

Read Liz’s previous House Diaries posts here and follow her home inspiration board on Pinterest.

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Some surprises you get with a new house can be less than positive. They can range from annoying (Surprise! The sellers left a giant oil painting of a quarterback in the attic.) to slightly more horrifying (Oh look, the faucet suddenly has no water pressure!), but luckily, there are lots of good surprises too.

Good surprise exhibit A: Discovering the new-to-us garden. Since the yard thinks its spring (It was 70 degrees yesterday…in February.), each day we’re seeing new bits of green shooting out of the ground. And almost every day, a different flower pops out. Of course, as gardening novices, we have to run to a flower book (or to the all-knowing HGTV gardening editor, Marie) to identify most of them.

Everything from crocuses…

Purple crocuses

Freshly-sprouted purple crocuses

…to daffodils…

Yellow daffodils

Yellow daffodils, after the rain

…to rambling vinca. And more is popping up every day!

Purple vinca

Vinca major

Read Liz’s previous House Diaries posts here and follow her home inspiration board on Pinterest.

What surprised you most (good or bad) about your first house? Tell me in the comments below.

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Last week, I shared photos of my embarrassingly bare bedroom. (Remember that mattress on the floor? I certainly do.)  Since sprucing it up is our first real project, I’ve spent hours upon hours this week holding up paint chips and scouring Pinterest for THE perfect shades. Besides getting a really great arm workout (fan decks can get mighty heavy…), I’ve managed to narrow the field down to two possible palettes.

Our master bathroom has ’50s-era aqua tile that’s not going anywhere anytime soon, so I wanted to incorporate that color into the bedroom palette to create a cohesive look. Overall, I”m looking for a modern natural feel, with flashes of bright colors alongside more muted hues. Which do you prefer?

Palette 1: Energetic Greens
I’m a little obsessed with yellow, so it’s not surprising that this look-at-me hue made into one of my palettes as an accent color. Chartreuse and aqua give this look a vintage feel, while warm neutrals keep it feeling modern.

Teal Green Yellow Gray PalettePillows via Coastal Living; bedding from Urban Outfitters

Palette 2:  Tangerine Dreams
Tangerine  (Pantone’s color of the year!) and aqua are color wheel opposites, but they’re a classic combination. I love the idea of bringing in a bright orange, vintage leather chair as an accent piece. Soft mocha paint (or a subtly-patterned wallpaper) would make the walls warm and inviting.

Orange Teal Red Bedroom PalettePeaches via Laura Vegas; Chair from Rate My Space contributor NYDesignGuy

Which color swatch should I use? Cast your vote in the comments below!

Read Liz’s previous House Diaries posts here and follow her home inspiration board on Pinterest.

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Yep, it’s finally time: We’ve chosen our first home improvement project. So, what will it be, you say? I’ve showed you my 5 least favorite home features. I’ve lamented about my completely paneled room. But none of those things made the first project list. Why? Because right now, our master bedroom (embarrassingly) looks like this:

Liz - House Diaries - Bedroom

Yep, this is it.

Yes, it’s a mattress on the floor. Our previous bed frame couldn’t handle another move, so we said RIP and decided to start fresh in the new house. And then there’s this sad little area:

Bedroom Messy Dresser

A clothing "vignette."

Needless to say, this room needs some TLC.  But since it’s our first project, we’re focusing more on cosmetics than the bones of the house, which will give us a chance to bulk up our DIY muscles. Plus, Josh and I figure that we’ll appreciate having a sanctuary away from the dust and chaos when we’re peeling up orange carpeting and sanding walls in the rest of the house.  So what do we have in store for the room?

So far, we’re thinking  a relaxed, modern natural theme…

Natural Modern Bedroom

Design by Jennifer Jones

…with a DIY ombre-painted dresser….

Ombre Dressers

Ombre dressers, clockwise from right, from Norske Interior Blogger, Finn Juhl via the Midcentury Modernist and Primitive and Proper

…a chic, minimalist vanity….

Vanity Inspiration

Design by Claire Bock

…and a (homemade!) plush upholstered headboard.

Upholstered Headboard

Modern upholstered headboard with bedding by Dwell Studio

The rest of the plan, including what to do about that carpeting, is still in the works. Next stop: Paint colors!  What would you do in this room? What was your first project in your first house? Tell me about it in the comments below.

Read Liz’s previous House Diaries posts here and follow her home inspiration board on Pinterest.

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I have a serious confession to make: I actually like paneling. Yep, It’s true. I know what people are saying behind paneling’s back (or maybe in front of its face): “It darkens a room” and “It dates the space” not to mention “It’s hideous.” I wasn’t always a fan. In fact, when I  first stepped inside the combination living room/dining room/kitchen of the home I fell in love with, I thought, “This paneling will be the first thing to go.”

Living room with knotty pine wood paneling

The living room paneling, pre-move in.

But after living with it for a few months, I’ve changed my tune a little. Maybe it’s the nature-lover in me. Maybe it’s in my genes (My dad makes live-edge furniture, so I’ve always loved to see wood in its natural state.) All I know is, I no longer shudder when I walk into the room. And since the huge windows give this space tons of light, it doesn’t seem too den-like. (Don’t worry, I’m still not a fan of this kind of paneling.)

Knotty pine paneling

Paneling, front and center.

While I don’t want to ditch it completely, I do want to modernize it a bit. Even adding colorful mod furniture and art, like Genifer Sohr did below in her home,  creates a “modern cabin” feel that I like.

Knotty pine modern office

Photo by Tec Petaja for Design Sponge

However, while I like the visible wood grain, I’m not as big of a fan of the color. I’d love to sand it down to its just-cut state and finish it with a UV-protecting finish to give it a more Scandinavian look, like Swedish architect Per Bornstein did in his knotty pine-happy home in Sweden.

Knotty pine living room paneling

Design by Swedish achitect Per Bornstein; photo by Pia Ulin for Dwell

Natural-hued knotty pine also lends itself well to both modern

Knotty pine paneled living room

Design by UNI Architects via Remodelista

…and more eclectic furnishings (I’d like to do a mix.)

Eclectic knotty pine living room

Design by Blackman Cruz; Photo by Timothy Street-Porter for Elle Decor

What would you do? Paint it, stain it, leave it natural or tear it out completely? Tell me your take.

Read Liz’s previous House Diaries posts here and follow her home inspiration board on Pinterest.

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I did it: I made The List. In an ambitious fervor that could have only been brought on by the combination of a new house, a new year and a long weekend, I galloped from room to room writing down everything I wanted to do, short term and long term, at my new home. (Believe me, there’s lots to be done.)

When I finished the double-sided, multi-columned list, I learned three things: 1) I really need to send more handwritten letters (it took my wrist several hours to un-cramp), 2) There’s a ridiculous amount I want to accomplish, and 3) I need a room-by-room, concrete plan.

Right now, I’m prioritizing The List (like many of you said I should), but I’m also doing something a little more fun: Scouring the web for inspiration. Here are some of my go-to renovation blogs and resources — check ‘em out, then tell me your faves!

Real Renovations at HGTVRemodels

Justine Rubin and Robin Finch's charcoal kitchen on HGTVRemodels

Real Renovations on HGTVRemodels
Okay, I’m a little biased since this is HGTV’s  newest sister site, but what I love are the amazing remodels from real homeowners — like this kitchen in Justine Rubin and Robin Finch’s airy home. (Plus, check out our blogger Bryan Patrick Flynn’s amazing basement remodel.)

Erin and Ken Loechner - Dining Room

Erin and Ken Loechner's finished dining room

Erin and Ken Loechner’s Scandinavian Reno
It’s been so inspiring to watch Erin and Ken’s Scandinavian-inspired reno unfold right here on Design Happens. Even though I’m planning to use quite a bit more color in my home, I love their DIY spirit and the way they transform ordinary objects into chic designer accessories — plywood stockings, anyone?

Young House Love

What a lovely living room! Photo via Young House Love

YoungHouseLove
It’s easy to see why this renovation blog is super-popular — homeowners Sherry and John write not only about their successes (like their blue-and-green living room) but also their not-so-successful projects (their greenish-yellow living room.) Plus, they’ve already remodeled one house — if they can do it, I can too!

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Every week, decorating and entertaining editor Liz Gray will write about the highs and lows of remodeling her first home. Read her first post for more details.

In many ways, buying a house is like starting a brand new relationship: You meet the house, fall for the house and spend hours thinking about how great it is. But a couple of months in, once the boxes are unpacked, you start to notice the little things — like the design equivalent of realizing that your shiny new significant other puts the toilet paper roll on upside down (for those wondering, the paper goes under.)

After living in my house for two months, I’ve realized certain things bother me more than others. (Surprisingly, the wall-to-wall paneling in the main living area didn’t make the list.) I’m counting down the  top 5 design crimes I’m itching to fix ASAP — which do you think is the worst offender?

#5: Grandma’s Wallpaper
We hated this so much that we started stripping it the second day we moved in. The equally ugly coordinating border is still up, but its days are numbered.

Floral Wallpaper

Buh-bye, floral wall and border!

#4: Stairway to Ugly
Okay, the entire second floor hallway is covered in burnt orange carpeting. Okay, it looks like it’s been hanging out here since the late ’70s. Not the worst part. My biggest pet peeve is this staircase:

Faded Orange 70s Carpeting

Orange carpeting, don't bother to write.

Sun from the picture windows has faded the rise of each step, leaving behind a seriously depressing yellow hue. On the other hand: It was ombre before it was cool, right?

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It’s still sinking in: In 2011, I bought a house.  My first house. A beautiful, 1957 tri-level home with lots of windows, an open floor plan and an amazing walk-in closet. But, it’s also a dated home with contact paper-covered cabinets and faded orange carpeting, not to mention a room full of paneling. In other words: In 2012, I’m going to be busy.

Liz Gray House From Road

Luckily, I have help. My boyfriend Josh shares my DIY spirit and love of all things mod. (We’re still figuring out how to get our hybrid corgie-bulldog-mystery puppy, Miles, to help us peel off wallpaper. Bacon grease? )

Josh and Liz at 60s Themed Party

Josh and I at a 1960s-themed party. Guest starring: my bouffant 'do. Photo by Jennifer Harper

Miles With Stick

Miles at play. Sticks > wallpaper.

Each week, I’ll share our progress, from room-by-room moodboards to finished projects to dramatic before-and-afters. I hope you’ll follow along! To keep it all in perspective, I’m making a few more promises, resolution-style. I pledge to…

Make Progress Every Week… I’ll do something to better my house every week, big or small.

But Don’t Expect It to Happen Overnight. As any homeowner probably knows and I’m about to find out…it’s a marathon, not a track meet. ‘Nuff said.

Appreciate the Good… I’ll remember every day, even when I’m covered in bits of popcorn ceiling and shreds of tiny floral wallpaper, what made me want this place. Things like waking up to this every morning:

New House Sunrise

Sunrise from master bedroom

And Tolerate the Bad. There’s plenty of design wrongs to be righted in this house (more on that later) but I can live with all of them…for now.  It will build character, right?

Get Input From You. Yes, you! I’ll need your help along the way to tell me if my color palettes look totally crazy and help me choose which lamp is the right one.  Right off the bat: Any tips on getting rid of those last few boxes?

‘Till next week…

Latest Pins on Pinterest

  • As seen on the HGTV & DIY Network series, Rehab Addict.

  • #TBT Favorite bedrooms from HGTV Dream Homes past

  • #TBT Favorite bedrooms from HGTV Dream Homes past

  • #TBT Favorite bedrooms from HGTV Dream Homes past