Five house projects we want to tackle over the next year.

Where do I even begin?!

Life has been so full this season with the move and other good things, and it’s been a challenge for me to divide my time between creative projects, sharing those projects and actually living life.

One of these days, I’ll sit down and pull together a design board from all the inspirational photos I’ve saved. I’ll create actual decorating plans for each of the rooms, and maybe I’ll even learn how to render. Right now, the grand vision I have for the look and feel of our new house – Southern California coastal meets modern Spanish – mostly lives in my head, but I have a deep desire to document this making-of-our-home process, so I’ll start today with the easiest, simplest thing I can think of – an intro to our home and the five big projects we want to tackle.

A peek at our house – I love the arched doorways, the floors, the built-ins.

A peek at our house – I love the arched doorways, the floors, the built-ins.

Our new house is a five-bedroom Spanish bungalow in the sweetest neighborhood with recessed sidewalks and tree-lined streets. We’re in a cul-de-sac, sandwiched between two pocket parks, and the weekend after we moved in, there was a block party. We get morning light from the front of the house and sunset light through the back that makes our kitchen and master bedroom glow at golden hour. We have two sets of French doors – one downstairs, one upstairs for the master balcony – that if it weren’t for the bugs, I would keep open all day long.

We don’t have a dining table or chairs. Our couch is too small, our nightstands got damaged in the move, and I don’t have anywhere to set down my bag when I get home, so it lands on the floor. But we have windows everywhere and so much potential. This is the fun part – this blank slate and open space.

Our little coffee station that brings me so much happiness. Even my cookbooks have a home now!

Our little coffee station that brings me so much happiness. Even my cookbooks have a home now!

Another day, I’ll tell the story of our house. Meanwhile, here’s our top five project list:

  1. Repaint the entire house white and paint the stair banisters. We painted our last house Benjamin Moore’s Classic Gray, but I’ve realized that I love the fresh, crisp and bright look of an all-white house with pops of black and warm wood accents. Choosing white paint is like traveling down a rabbit hole – there are literally thousands of shades. Currently, I’m considering Benjamin Moore’s Swiss Coffee and Simply White (see Studio McGee’s white paint guide) and Dunn Edward’s White Heat (that Amber Lewis used in the Client What’s the Story Spanish Glory house). I loved how Jenni from I SPY DIY transformed her stair banisters, and we may do the same thing with the Satin Black.

  2. Take the downstairs flooring throughout the entire house. The stairs and second floor are currently carpeted, which isn’t the worst thing thing in the world, but I love how easy the downstairs flooring is to clean (and it hides dirt so well!).

  3. Repaint the exterior and update the front door (dutch or glass paneled) and exterior lighting. We’re going with a modern Spanish vibe here – a crisp white (leaning towards BM’s White Dove) with deep brown and muted blue-gray accents.

  4. Get solar installed to bring down our electric bill.

  5. Get a fire pit installed in the backyard for post-dinner party s’mores and an outdoor/dirty kitchen to augment the built-in BBQ.

I love this piano room so much – high ceilings, lots of light. We can’t wait to put our Christmas tree in front of that window.

I love this piano room so much – high ceilings, lots of light. We can’t wait to put our Christmas tree in front of that window.

As a little girl, I dreamed of being an interior designer, so I feel like some big dreams are coming true for me with getting to design and decorate this house. This house marks a new journey for us, and I’m excited to share more in the coming months.

Making Space: A Love Letter.

Hi, baby boy. We’re just about ready for you.


Your room is the only one in the house that is “finished.” I cleaned out the closet and drawers that you’ll share with your brothers. I saved only the beautiful and the useful. Each item has its place because there is a time and place for everything under heaven.


We finally bought a glider. You and I will spend a lot of time here – sitting quietly and nursing, or reading together with your brothers from one of the books in your mini-library. Or maybe mama will just sit here alone at night, watching you sleep, rocking back and forth, and remembering that the present carries its own rhythm.

We painted your room a seafoam blue and added some California vibes – a vintage wagon, a painting of Big Sur. You are one lucky boy to be able to grow up in Orange County. I hope your room reminds you to look for the beauty in your current surroundings. God made it for us to soak up and enjoy.

There are some blank spaces. These are intentional. Sometimes your eye just needs to rest. You need visual space to develop your imagination – there is always room to create.

The owl lamp is one that mom bought from Anthropologie years before you were born.  It wasn’t a purchase that made sense to anyone else – once, your uncle saw the price tag and pretended to drop it while helping us move. It was expensive, but I loved it, and I’m glad that it still fits somewhere in our house. Don’t be afraid to hold onto what speaks to your heart.


Almost everything in your room was a gift – your crib, the clothes in your closet, the pieces that add character to the space. Gifts carry love, tangibly, from the past into the present. You were loved before you were born, and you are loved now.

Love, Mom

Powder Room Design

I’ve come to the conclusion that the rooms that I create inspiration boards for are actually going to be the rooms that get done last. Nevertheless, here’s my vision for our downstairs powder room, which – fingers crossed! – we can have done by the end of summer.


This bathroom gets a ton of use, as we spend most of our time downstairs. It is also probably one of the ugliest rooms in the house – I’m talking a vanity that looks like it was decoupaged with dried blood, wall lighting circa the mid-1980s, and tiny rhinestones on the walls. It is literally bedazzled.

Since the room has no natural light to begin with – and because I want to have one darkly painted room in the house – I decided to capitalize on that and go moody and dark with black shiplap (Benjamin Moore Soot). My husband thinks shiplap will be easier to install than tile (the other look I was leaning towards), knock on wood. I’m still debating horizontal or vertical installation.

With statement walls, we can keep it simple with a pedestal sink rather than a full-fledged vanity, which helps keep the cost down. There seem to be an infinite number of hardware options (just see my Pinterest board) – do I pair polished nickel finishes with a brass pivot mirror? Or chrome finished hardware with a round oak mirror? I ultimately decided on a rattan mirror with polished nickel and a touch of white porcelain because the scale of the mirror I found was just right.

I love the idea of showcasing art in various places throughout our home in untraditional places, like the bathroom or the laundry room. I’m eyeing a piece like this one from Laurie Anne Art for above the toilet, but I’m not opposed to a Rose Bowl flea market vintage find either.

I’m rough estimating our budget to be around $3,000, but I think we’ll get it done under that amount. I stalk sales, free shipping promos and cash back deals like my second job. Also, we’ll do the labor ourselves – you can bet that I signed Dave up for the upcoming How to Install a Toilet workshop at our local Home Depot.

Side note: I'm completing re-doing my laundry room design because turns out, it's been done! (Unbeknownst to me at the time I published). Sorry, Hartley Home, I promise I wasn't trying to pose! I have another idea in mind, and the wallpaper was going to be a hassle to put up anyway (and probably a little bit too girly).


Laundry Room Design.

For the last six months, we’ve done very few home improvement projects. The constraint has been budget, mostly, but also energy. When you don’t have the money to go shopping, it’s a bit of a buzzkill to even be looking, am I right? I’ve been following all the designers (and design bloggers) on Instagram, bookmarking inspiration and a few products, but mostly I’ve been on hiatus from all things house.

Until – a few things happened recently. First, I started scheduling “creative” time in my day – a 40 minute minimum where I write, practice hand-lettering, dream up room designs, etc.  Second, I came across the perfect wallpaper, and the inspiration started flowing. My creative time took a design turn, and here I am now with a laundry room inspiration board.

Side note: this wallpaper (Orange Crush) was the one that started it all. Orange groves have a special place in my heart, and I thought, we should put this in our house somewhere! But our house has its own personality, and Orange Crush in Onyx did not fit it.

No 17 Ridge House Laundry Room

Then I came across this Lulie Wallace wallpaper on Anthropologie, and it was the one. I love that Lulie Wallace prints are pretty, with spunk. The muted tones of blues and grays with pops of green better fit the aesthetic of our house, and since laundry is primarily women’s work (ha!), the laundry room was the perfect place to embrace a more feminine look.

For this room, I wanted to balance the floral print with a touch of galvanized steel, birch butcher block, clean cabinet lines, and classic marble (with a more whimsical honeycomb design). Initially, I thought that we would spend $1,000 tops on our laundry room, but then I started running the math. With the cost of materials and labor, even with DIY-ing several things, our budget now is a more realistic $3,500.

The breakdown:


Add about another $1,000 for labor to install the tile and the wallpaper, and that brings it to about $3,500. I hope we spend less than this, of course. I almost always buy things on sale – like the wallpaper, which I purchased at about half of the regular price.

We’re going to tackle this project in bite-sized pieces along with a powder room renovation (black shiplap! brass light fixtures!) across the hall, also with a $3,500 (I hope) budget. I wish we were DIY geniuses, but the whole renovation process is so new to us (and there’s the whole full-time jobs, businesses, toddlers, baby-on-the-way thing too). For now, the plan counts for something, right?

Hire the Painter.

Young House Love and Chris Loves Julia make home DIY look so glam.



It was fun at first. We incorporated some solid toddler lessons in hard work, with Noah trying his hand at painting with a mini touch-up roller. Then three months in – there are still paintbrushes soaking in water and vinegar solution on the kitchen counter, my Lulus are now my paint clothes, and I’m still tripping over boxes that I can’t unpack because I can’t anchor any furniture on the walls that still need a second coat, and (deep breath) – it’s not so fun.

How do people do it with kids? We were dealing with a meltdown, every twenty minutes, from a toddler who needed attention (rightfully so), and I was nursing my other sweet boy, also every twenty minutes. And did I mention that we both have full-time jobs and our own company?

Maybe one day we won’t be scrounging up spare time like loose change, and when that day comes, it will be bittersweet.

It’s difficult let go of hard-earned money, but at this season in our lives, the opportunity cost of doing the job ourselves is too high.

I asked my friend, Is it even worth it to get a quote for a painter? Like how much does it cost to finish painting like ⅗ of our ceiling, half of our baseboards, two random doors?

Her response? It’s priceless. It’s your sanity. As the author of this spot-on article points out, “Happiness in the present, earning power in the future and familial bliss need not be in conflict.”

I've learned a whole lot of lessons in my twenties, but now that I'm 30, I'm learning another big lesson: outsource. Hire the painter. And the housekeeper. And while you’re at it, get the Plated subscription.

The painters are coming tomorrow, and I’m like (insert all the dancing lady, celebration confetti, big grin, and happy family emojis here).