As soon as the offer was accepted on our new old home, our wheels started spinning with renovation ideas. We had so many plans, and wouldn’t be able to do them all at once (budget and a 7 week timeline before move in day being the main constraints), so we had to prioritize.

The number one priority for me was patching and painting all of the walls and trim. And removing all of the popcorn ceilings (not for the faint of heart). The walls looked like they hadn’t been repainted in years, and the majority of the house was a flesh toned color that did nothing to brighten the space, in spite of all of the windows and natural light. We also knew we wanted to knock down a wall and another partial wall. Basically, all the dusty and messy stuff needed to get done before we moved us and all of our belongings into the new place.

That left room, realistically, for one more project- renovate the kitchen or renovate the full and half baths. All three of these spaces were in need of renovating, but they were also all in livable condition. It was really a matter of what we wanted to get done more and what we could live with waiting on. We ultimately decided to renovate the kitchen, because I felt like living through a kitchen renovation down the road, while residing in our home, would be more difficult. That, and kitchens are just more fun!

The next question was exactly how much renovating we wanted to do. The only elements of the kitchen we really liked were the bead board walls and the two light filled windows. The cabinets weren’t our favorite by any means, but we could potentially repaint them and save money there. Everything else- the rusty old appliances, the horrible drop ceiling, the even more horrible peel and stick faux marble floor tiles- had to be addressed. We also needed to consider layout- now was our chance to customize the kitchen to our liking, and we really wanted to get it right (which we didn’t, exactly, but more on that later).

The main problem with the kitchen was that it felt really closed off from the rest of the house. I didn’t necessarily want to knock down a bunch of walls and change our entire house into the open concept style that is so popular these days. I actually liked that this home felt like an older home, and there is a certain coziness to having separate spaces. But I also didn’t want the kitchen to feel like an isolated space in the back of the house, so we opted to make a few minor changes that we thought would help add flow to the home while still keeping its’ original integrity.

First, we decided to remove the cabinetry and dated mirrored back splash in that odd little alcove, and knock down that wall. Behind that was our living room, so it would create a nice pass through to that side of the house. Kevin cut that hole in the wall literally the day we closed on the house- it couldn’t come down fast enough! We soon discovered that there was also an old brick chimney that had been plastered over, and we quickly worked to expose that as well.

The other major change we made was cutting out the top half of the wall looking into the dining room, which made a huge difference in opening up both spaces. Because that wall was where the fridge was originally located, we knew we would have to change the layout of the appliances slightly, and thus the cabinets. When we took a closer look at the cabinetry, it became obvious that the age and quality (there were no backs on them), meant that we wouldn’t be able to simply relocate them- they were not worth repainting and would have to be replaced.

Once we had a game plan, I got to work on the fun part- the design plan. Even though we would be doing the labor ourselves, we were still on a tight budget, which would play a major role in the materials and finishes we ended up using. Still, I am no stranger to working within a budget, and was giddy to be renovating a kitchen that would pretty much be a blank slate!

In keeping with the historic style of our colonial home, we opted to go for a modern farmhouse look. Kevin and I started pinning images we liked on Pinterest for inspiration, and were really drawn to photos of kitchens from the 1930s in particular.

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What we liked about them was that instead of matching upper and lower cabinets everywhere, the storage pieces were separate pieces of furniture. Even the sink and appliances often stood alone as opposed to being built into the kitchen. As a nod to this style, we knew we would want some separate piece of furniture for storing pantry items, whether a hutch or shelf or buffet, and we also knew that we didn’t want any upper cabinetry. We opted instead for simple shaker style lower cabinets (surprisingly affordable ones from Lowe’s) and open shelving on the walls above, since we really liked the look of our dishes and were happy to display them anyway.

The other sort of controversial choice we made was to go with white appliances. I know everyone feels like they need to get stainless steel these days, but honestly, I’m over it. It felt too modern for this house in particular, and I wanted the appliances to sort of blend into the background rather than stand out. Besides, we knew we wanted gold finishes in the cabinet knobs and pulls (and a gold towel bar instead of putting fake pulls on that drawer below the sink, an idea I saw on Pinterest and loved). A retro style Smeg fridge was the ultimate dream, but out of our price range, so I was happy to find a line of appliances called GE Artistry that still had a retro look to them- I mean, how stinkin’ cute is the little clock on that stove?! I was also really loving the painted cabinetry thing that has been happening all over the design blog world, and thought a deep green would be so striking.

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Lastly, a combination of butcher block counter tops by the dining room cut out and quartz counter tops by the farmhouse apron front sink would bring in both some warm wood tones and the cool marble look I had been coveting. For the floors, we would go with a classic black and white tile- timeless and affordable. Thus my first design board for our kitchen was born:

We planned on moving the stove over and putting the fridge next to it, with a shelf above for storage. By the sink, we wanted to remove the upper cabinets and replace with 2 more shelves on each side. Finally, under the cute arched window by the walkway to the living room, I toyed with the idea of a little bistro table and chairs. It was all looking pretty good, and we were getting excited about our vision for the space. And then life happened.

The first issue was with the cabinets and the fact that we were buying them from a big box store instead of having them custom made. Because the drawer fronts were not deep enough, we wouldn’t be able to do the apron front sink of my dreams, and would instead have to do a drop mounted white sink. The other problem was paint- even though I loved the look of painted cabinets, the reality was that we were buying new white cabinets with a very slick factory finish, and it would have been nearly impossible for us to sand them down enough for the paint to stick, then paint them well enough to look professionally done. The last thing I wanted was for us to do all of that work, only for the paint to start peeling off. Had we been refinishing the old cabinets, I would have definitely done it, but it was just feeling like too much work for brand new cabinets with not the best quality wood. Who knows what we would have found once we started sanding them? Plus, we started to wonder if maybe the dark green painted cabinet look was a trend that we would eventually tire of. The cabinets were new, white, a safe color that would always suit our tastes, and it would save us a ton of time and effort to just leave them as is.

The next thing I had to give up was the quartz counter tops. I really loved them, truly, but I also really loved the butcher block, and as the renovations went on and more and more things kept coming up (thus bleeding more and more money from the budget), we ultimately decided to save and just go with the butcher block everywhere. I wasn’t too upset, as I really loved the warm look of it (especially since our cabinetry would now be white on white walls with white appliances), but promised myself I would find a way to bring in that marble look I loved elsewhere, perhaps in the form of a marble tray or other kitchen accessory.

As we got to demoing and painting, we realized that not all of the bead board on the walls would be salvageable, particularly where the upper cabinets had been flanking the window above the sink. We made a last minute decision to do white subway tile all the way to the ceiling on that wall instead, and I am so glad that we did. It’s such a simple but classic detail that adds just another subtle, interesting element to our kitchen.

Another last minute decision was to go a little bolder with the floor tiles.

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I had been coveting the aged cement tiles that are becoming really popular with kitchens as of late, (but again they were not in our price range), and then I stumbled upon a porcelain tile on Wayfair with a similar look for a fraction of the price. I loved how the bold pattern would create interest in our otherwise white and understated kitchen, and Kevin agreed.

So here is our revised design board- I changed out the wooden hutch for a gray washed buffet, because of all of the wood tones that would now be brought in with our counter tops. I also love how it pulls some of the gray tones from the floor tiles. You may also notice that the fridge is different- once we went to order the first one, they couldn’t find it in stock anywhere and we had to find a new one very quickly. Still, I think it turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as I love having a freezer on the bottom (we hardly ever use it), and the shorter french doors definitely help in the tight space. Still got that cute little retro style stove though!

cabinets / floor tiles / fridge / stove / butcher block counter tops and shelves / faucet / cabinet pulls / cabinet knobs / towel bar / milk glass pendant / black library sconce / cast iron shelf brackets

So there you have it! The kitchen is almost done (with the exception of some trim work that needs to be installed and painted), and we really do love it. Its such a pretty space, white and bright the way I like it, but with lots of warm textures in the walls and counter tops. I am obsessed with our open shelving- the cast iron cobweb brackets bring in so much character, and I love being able to put away and get dishes down so easily from those shelves.

Still, after living with it for a few months, there are some more changes we are now planning on making. We want to move the fridge from its’ current location beside the stove, as it just feels like it sticks out too far and blocks to much of my favorite view when coming in from the living room. The plan is to steal some space from the half bath behind the wall (along the walkway toward the living room) and recess it into the wall. Then, we can get another lower cabinet to place beside the stove instead. We are also still on the hunt for the perfect buffet piece for under the arched window- I am hoping to find something vintage and full of character, that can conceal our pantry items and microwave (which is currently and most inconveniently residing outside in the shed, as I refuse to take up all that precious counter space on an ugly ol’ appliance).

I am dying to show you pictures of our kitchen as it is today, but can’t bring myself to get professional photos done until it is completely finished! Not sure when that will be, but let’s hope for soon. In the meantime, I will be sharing little glimpses on instagram (and maybe even an instastories tour), so follow me there!

Tell me your thoughts! Would you have chosen to renovate the kitchen or the bathrooms? Do you prefer the first design plan or the second? Would you ever consider doing butcher block counter tops in your own kitchen? Do you think we’re crazy for going with white appliances? I want to hear it all!

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If there is one thing I’ve learned over the last several years, it’s to always be prepared for change. I’m not just talking about the changes that happen to you (although there will be plenty of those), but the changes that happen because of you. The ones that come from the inside, working their way out and creating a chain of events that leads you to a totally different place from where you were or ever imagined you would be. Does doing something you never thought you’d do mean that you aren’t being true to who you are? Or does it mean recognizing and acknowledging that who you are now is different from who you were yesterday, or who you will be tomorrow, and that’s okay? Because you guys, we did it again. It started with an inkling, a teeny thought, or idea rather, way back in January. And now here we are, months later- that little seed has sprouted into something very large and full of life, and once again our lives look completely different.

Let me take you back to the beginning. It was January, we had just finished clearing away the Christmas decorations, Kevin was done traveling for a while, and we could finally sit back and breathe after the hectic holiday season. Life was good, we were happy. And yet I couldn’t stop thinking about the email we had recently received from our landlord, asking if we planned on renewing our lease in July. Kevin and I had assumed we would, had not even questioned it, really. Still, for some reason I found myself reluctant to reply.

I kept chewing it over in my head, and before I knew it I found myself secretly checking the Trulia app on my phone almost daily. I think it started out of curiosity. We were paying an exorbitant amount of money in rent each month (so much so that our meager eating out/entertainment budget made it almost pointless to live in the center of downtown), and I wondered how much money we would save by moving just a little further away. I found a couple options that were significantly more affordable and still in desirable, walk-able neighborhoods within 15 minutes of downtown, and when the timing felt right (meaning he had a nice cold beer in his hand and was in a chipper mood), I brought up the idea to Kevin.

He was understandably shocked that moving was even on my radar, having only lived in our dream place for 6 months. But as I started talking, a whole bunch of explanations spewed out before I could stop them, things I didn’t even realize I was feeling until I said them out loud: the amount of our budget being spent on rent each month, the isolation of being one of the only stay at home moms in the area, the feeling of dread when one of our neighbors in the building would have a noisy party that would surely keep the girls up late, the frequent texts from our downstairs neighbor complaining that the pitter-patter of the girls’ little feet as they played in their home was too noisy, having to walk the dog multiple times a day because we didn’t have a yard…you get the idea). Kevin pointed out that we  knew about all of these issues going into it, and plenty of people all over the world survive without a yard and share walls with neighbors and are perfectly fine, and wasn’t it a small price to pay to be able to live in our dream location, and would it really be worth moving to a different area just to save a couple hundred dollars in rent… and not so very long ago, I would have agreed and said he was right. I had heard all of these things before- heck, I had said all of these things before (remember this post?). But it wasn’t about any one of these complaints that had slowly been festering in my head. It wasn’t even about the culmination of them. It was something about not feeling completely comfortable in our own home. Our own home. And that’s when it hit me.

“What if we bought a home instead?”

Now I know what you’re thinking. Weren’t we already homeowners once before? Weren’t we dying to get out of the suburbs, tired of the HOA complaints if our yard didn’t have the right kind of pine straw, sick of having the choice between Ruby Tuesdays and Applebees on a Friday night? Didn’t we love being able to call the landlord when something went wrong, spending our weekends enjoying our city rather than mowing our unruly lawn? It’s true, we had not been happy in our previous homeowner situation. It had never really felt right, not quite us. It was almost as though we had been playing house, doing the thing we thought we were supposed to do. Moving downtown was bold and risky, and surely everyone thought we were a little bit crazy, but at least we were listening to our hearts. It was exciting to be doing what we had always wanted to do, living out our fantasy. It felt more like us for sure. But was it a perfect fit? I still wasn’t convinced.

So we decided we would take what we had learned from two very different experiences and finally figure out what it was that we really wanted. There is no perfect situation, and you can argue both sides to every scenario, but the past couple of years had definitely given us a better idea of what was most important to us. Location was still number one, but downtown prices were completely off our radar, so we would have to look elsewhere. It would need to be a place with walk-ability, near shops and restaurants we actually liked to go to. It would need to have charm and character, a history. Our previous homes had been fairly new builds in newer neighborhoods, and although we had made changes to the insides to make them feel more like us, we never felt truly attached to them. Renting in historic downtown had taught us that old homes would forever have our hearts, so that’s what we would need to get. An older home in an older neighborhood full of character and friendly neighbors who had a pride in their community. And most importantly, it would have to be ours. A place where the girls could run freely, and Kevin and I would have plenty of projects to do to make it shine. Projects that we would be happy to do, because we would be caring for a home that we truly adored, that we wanted to lovingly restore and cultivate for our family. Soon, we had our answer.

We decided to look solely in Park Circle, a trendy up and coming neighborhood 15 minutes from downtown Charleston, full of cute old homes and its’ own downtown area with fantastic restaurants. We set up some showings for that week, and before we knew it we were once again house hunting!

The plan was to spend the next few months looking at homes in the area, find the perfect place, and still have a couple of months to do any necessary renovations before our lease was up in July. But when have we ever done things the way we planned to?

Instead, we fell in love with the 4th house we saw on our very first day of house hunting. It was a 1930s white colonial with old plaster walls, and a kitchen and two bathrooms in need of a complete overhaul. But it was perfect. 1400 square feet, not too big but not too small, since we knew from living downtown that we actually liked the minimal lifestyle of having less to take care of. 3 bedrooms, 1 and a half baths. Original wood floors with a gorgeous inlay detail. Crystal doorknobs with brass art deco plates. Arched doorways. Built ins in the living and dining rooms, and a cute little telephone nook in the entry. It was priced well, a steal in the neighborhood, with a ton of potential. When our realtor called the seller’s agent to find out the details, she discovered that there were multiple offers on the property, and we would have 3 days to come back with our best and final offer. My heart sank- I was already envisioning us there, covered in paint and knocking down walls, and now we were being forced to make some very big decisions very quickly.

We knew we had stumbled upon a gem, and we weren’t the only ones who had. The competition factor definitely upped the ante for us, so we decided to offer full asking price (which was also the maximum amount we were approved for), write the sellers a personal letter, and hope for the best. A very long day later, and we had our answer- we were about to be homeowners again!

We closed on our new home in mid February, spent several weeks renovating, and moved in at the end of March. Our landlord had agreed to let us out of our lease early (thank goodness for small miracles), and we had 7 weeks to scrape popcorn ceilings, repair and repaint very cracked and damaged walls, knock down other walls, and completely demolish and renovate the kitchen. Did I mention we were doing this ourselves, with the help of my amazing contractor father (as well as countless family and friends who either took a sledgehammer to a wall or watched the girls so I could help paint), all while Kevin continued to work 40 plus hours a week at his day job? The sheer amount of work that went into just getting the home move in ready for us in that short amount of time was insane.

But we did it! I still can’t believe we did it. Just days before we moved in, the floors still covered in paint splatters and a thick layer of dust quite literally everywhere, and I didn’t think it would be possible, yet here we are! Proof of what a little determination and hard work can do. And proof that you can think you want one thing, only to learn that what will really make you happy looks completely different. But this is life folks! It’s about evaluating what we have, what we need and what we want, whatever that may be at any given time, accepting the changes that happen both to us and within us, and finding a way to make it all work.

There are so many things I want to share with you, (so very much more than these grainy photos- although to be fair it was a construction site at the time and before photos are supposed to look bad), but this post is too long as it is, so I’m going to have to take it one day and one room at a time. I will just tell you that we are all completely smitten with our home and our neighborhood, the changes we have made and the exciting changes still to come. We are so very far from done, but one thing is certain- this feels like us. Dare I say we are finally home?

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Oh Sweet Lucy, where to begin. I am very late in writing this post, as you turned 2 on March 31st and we are well on our way into May. I have no excuse for my procrastination except to say that in my mind, turning 2 means that you are officially not a baby anymore, and admitting that my baby is not really a baby is super hard to do. And Lucy, you are so clearly not a baby anymore.

Maybe it’s having an older sister that you are desperate to catch up with, or maybe it’s your driven personality (you get that from your Daddy), but it seems like you are growing up much faster than I had anticipated. No more diapers, no more crib, and you have handled and embraced these changes so smoothly it almost makes my head spin. You are talking in sentences and singing songs, and trying to do everything yourself just like your sister does it.

You still think Penny is the coolest girl around, and find Daddy pretty hilarious too, but you are definitely Mommy’s girl through and through. You went through a phase recently where whenever we spent time around anyone outside of our immediate family, you would cling to me like a second skin and refuse to even look at anyone else for at least an hour. It was slightly annoying and inconvenient at times, but now that it’s over I will admit that I didn’t exactly hate the extra snuggles.

You are not a morning person. If anyone opens your bedroom door to say good morning before you are ready to start your day, you scream and thrash around until you are finally left alone again. I just laugh and leave you to it, probably because I can kind of relate. You prance out of your room all cheery and full of smiles a couple of minutes later, and it’s as though nothing has even happened.

 

Your puppy is still very well loved (as people will often mention when they see you out and about with him), and it’s hard to imagine a time when you won’t require his cuddly services at bedtime. We left him in a Lowe’s parking lot a couple of weeks ago, and got all the way home before we realized it. That was a rough afternoon, but thankfully he arrived back home safely and in one piece.

You love to do anything that requires focus, like coloring or puzzles, and have only recently started to get really into books, which makes me super happy. You will basically do anything your sister wants to do though, and there really isn’t anything cuter than seeing the two of you play together.

You know the words to all of the Moana songs, and would definitely watch it every day if we let you. (For a while there, we kind of did). Your favorite character is Maui (“Wowee”), and listening to you sing “I know it’s a lot, the hair, the BOD” pretty much makes our day.

You are a painfully picky eater these days, (painful because sometimes you won’t even touch your pizza or chocolate chip pancakes, and I’m sitting there with my healthy salad or veggie omelette all jealous and fighting the urge to not force feed you), and often it seems as though you are living off of fruit and goldfish crackers. You are skinny and tall for your age (not sure where you get that from, honestly), and remind me of a tiny pixie with your soft wispy hair and cute little upturned nose. I could stare at you, running around in pig tails with that teeny squeezable butt (which has been bare the last couple of weeks due to potty training) all. day. long.

You have a wicked little laugh, more of a cackle really, and Daddy spends most of his time with you trying to make you laugh just once more so we can hear it again.

Basically, we all just adore you and don’t know what we’d do without you in our lives. Penny always tells me how you are her very best friend and practically begs me to wake you up early from your nap each afternoon because she misses you too much (don’t worry, I never do- I know better by now). Daddy will goof around with you and get you all riled up and silly at any time of day (particularly right before bed, which he knows makes Mommy mad, but does it anyway because he loves you just so darn much). And Mommy? She is fighting the urge to eat you right up practically every minute of every day, you’re just that yummy.

Thank you for so perfectly completing our family, Lucy Pearl! We love love love you.

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If you’ve been following along with me so far on the tour of our historic Wentworth Street home, you know that the unconventional layout of the space forced us to think a little outside the box, especially when it came to designing our master bedroom. Last time, I shared a tour of the girls’ bedroom and play area, explaining that because we literally had nowhere else to store their toys, we had to give up a little square footage in our own bedroom to make it work.

Since the girls’ room was directly off of ours (making it feel more like a closet than a separate bedroom), we decided to create some separation between the two rooms using a folding screen behind our headboard. The division lent itself to a sort of faux hallway where the girls could play as well as a path to the beckoning front balcony just beyond the french doors.

You’ll notice that against the walls on either side of the bed are armoires, the historic home dwellers’ best friend- the white one houses all of the girls’ in season clothing and the wood one stores mine and Kevin’s, as there isn’t a closet to be found in either bedroom. The dresser is used as additional clothing storage as well as a changing table for Lucy.

In front of the other window is a vintage chair and small record table. I found that chair for $20 at a Goodwill years ago, and my love for it has yet to wane. There is a small hole in the fabric, but it’s very easy to pretend it’s not there when you cover it with a cozy throw blanket and pillow!

While floating our bed in the middle of the room facing away from the entrance certainly isn’t ideal (and violates some major feng shui rules I’m sure), it did help us to feel like we had our own private space in a room that serves multiple purposes. We don’t have to look at toys when we are settling down for bed each night, and are able to wake up to a view of our alluring fireplace and front porch instead. All in all, it was a worthy sacrifice in the name of small space living. (On a side note, I’m finding it super convenient that Toby the cat goes so well with our decor. It’s like he was made for lounging on that bed!)

Matching bedside tables flank said bed, and my usual favorite accessories (plants, books, and pretty vintage objects) are scattered throughout the space.

The best thing about this bedroom is without a doubt the balcony. On nice days (which has been almost every day for the last several weeks- thank goodness for mild South Carolina winters), we fling open all of the doors and allow the fresh southern breezes to waft inside. The girls are constantly going out onto the porch, toting blocks or crayons and coloring books, and it truly feels like an additional living space for all of us. When we first realized we wouldn’t have a yard for them if we chose to live in this apartment, we were a little hesitant, but we honestly use this balcony so much more than we ever used our old backyard.

The biergarten table is a great spot for eating and crafting, and the two white chairs make a cozy spot for reading and sipping our morning coffee.

While we went into this rental knowing it wouldn’t work for us forever (space and the need for privacy likely becoming an issue as the girls get a little older), for the past several months, waking up in this bedroom and stepping out onto this porch each morning has felt like an extended vacation. We love our little retreat in the heart of the city. We love hearing the clip clop of horses pulling carriage tours past our home, the girls rushing to the balcony to catch a glimpse and give a friendly “Neigh!” to the passersby. We love watching the people, both locals and tourists alike, as they go about their days. For all of its’ challenges, this space has been one of the most unique, coolest places we have ever lived or (I’m sure) will ever live.

If you are wondering about the bathroom and kitchen (notoriously known as the renter’s worst nightmare), I will be sharing those spaces in my next post. As often is the case in apartment dwelling, they are not dream kitchen and bath material by any stretch of the imagination. However, like everything else about this space, we have managed to make them work for us, and dare I say actually like them. I’ll show you details soon, and in the meantime, if you missed the tour of our living and dining space, click here!

**Photographs by Amanda Seifert Photography

 

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One of the biggest challenges in making the historic downtown apartment of our dreams work for us involved the layout of the bedrooms. When you walked through the front door, there was a short hallway immediately to the right that lead into a spacious master bedroom.

 

Beyond that was a gorgeous balcony that you could enter by way of two sets of charming french doors. It was perfect- until we realized that the “second bedroom” the listing referred to was actually a very small room off of the master. It felt more like a closet than anything, and the lack of separation between the two rooms (you would have to walk through our room to get to the girls’ room) made for a major lack of privacy. The one redeeming quality of the small “bedroom” was that it too had a lovely set of french doors leading out onto the balcony.

Still, it was so spatially challenged that I knew we would be lucky enough to get both of the girls’ beds into the room, let alone clothing storage or a place for toys. We eventually decided that since our master bedroom was much larger than we really needed, we would simply have to borrow some space from there for toy storage. Creating a separation in order to allow for privacy was necessary to make a separate walkway between the bedrooms and also a place to store toys. We didn’t want to look at a messy play area when we were trying to relax at night and feel like grown ups, so we ultimately decided to use a folding screen behind our headboard, floating the bed in the middle of the room facing away from the walkway and play area. I will show you more of our master bedroom in another post, but for now let’s take a look around the play area.

In addition to the built in storage in the hallway, which houses most of our craft items and games, we used wood cube shelving to store the rest of the girls’ toys.

These cube shelves are so great for storing toys- they get them off the floor while still making them easily accessible for the kiddos. Because this was essentially our bedroom as well, I wanted to decrease the visual clutter as much as possible, and baskets helped a ton with that. Beside the shelf is a simple white metal table and chairs. I loved the look of it and immediately bought it from Overstock when we moved in, but since then Target has come out with one that is practically identical and a fraction of the price, so definitely check them out if you’re looking for something similar.

Above the activity table is our artwork display frame, which is functional, corralling the art that Penny would otherwise be taping all over our walls (which she still does, but not quite as much as she might), and it also helps distract from the door to nowhere (there are a number of those in our apartment, as the building used to be a single family residence back when it was built in the 1850s).

In the far corner between the door to the girls’ bedroom and the doors to the balcony, I also squeezed in some book ledges. When you are tight on space every little bit helps! Now let’s step inside the girls’ shared bedroom.

Arranging this room was like a jigsaw puzzle, only much more difficult to manage, as each piece is heavy and large and involved lots of lifting and sweating and brow wiping to rearrange. We ultimately came to the conclusion that there was just no way we were getting their cute antique armoire into the space (it ended up in our master bedroom instead), as there was barely enough room for a crib, bed, small table, and chair.

Penny’s twin bed fit perfectly into the nook to the right (notice the large letter “P” trying to disguise yet another door to nowhere), and Lucy’s crib was narrow enough to place along the wall near the french doors (and look at that, another door to nowhere!). At the foot of Penny’s bed, we took advantage of the wall space to display more books, and there is just enough room for the girls to squeeze their tiny tushies in to get one.

The play kitchen was a last minute Christmas project I did for the girls, and fit like a glove in that tiny corner bedside the french doors. I found the bedside table (already painted!) on Craigslist for $30, cut a hole in the top for a bowl “sink,” added some wooden knobs and a corkboard trivet for the stove, a cute little curtain, and voila! I’m pretty sure I was more excited about this gift than they were.

You may recognize a lot of the details from their previous shared bedroom (this round ribbon rug was in their old play room nook), but it was fun to reuse and re-imagine their things in a new space.

Hopefully the cute and cozy factor helps to distract from the small space and awkward layout! I will share the rest of our master bedroom, as well as what lies beyond those french doors (our favorite place in the whole apartment), in my next post. And in case you missed the tour of our living space, click on over. Thoughts? Comments? Would you be willing to share your bedroom with kids’ toys? How might you have arranged this space differently? I’d love your input!

Photographs by Amanda Seifert Photography, and many thanks to her and apologies for all the acrobatic like maneuvers she had to do in order to get wide angle shots in this tiny space!

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I’m starting our home tour with the living area, since it is the first room you see when you walk into our apartment. I’ve mentioned before that what we first fell in love with when we saw this apartment was all of the natural light. The super tall ceilings and huge windows flanking the fireplace (along with the fresh white walls) make this space feel bright and happy even on the gloomiest of days, and it’s not something you can create out of thin air- you either have it or you don’t. And this apartment had it.

For those reasons, along with the pretty original hardwood floors, we really did love our living space at first sight. The tricky thing about it was that it also had to be our dining space, and once we started to factor in all of our furniture (the couch, chairs, coffee table, desk, media credenza, television, bookcase, and the dining table and chairs) things got a little hairy. This room has many functions, and it was important for us to incorporate all of these pieces into the room in a way that would flow and feel comfortable without being too crowded. There was definitely some arranging and rearranging before we finally got it right, but in the end I think we found a way to make it all work (once again, I apologize to our movers and thank them for their time).

So let me give you a quick tour around the room, and then we’ll get into the details.

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Hopefully the first thing you notice is the sleek yet inviting leather sofa, and NOT the television above the fireplace. I admit that I am not the biggest fan of putting televisions over mantles for multiple reasons- I don’t like making the tv the focal point, it has to be hung a little higher than is comfortable for viewing, and it limits the decorating possibilities in that spot. I would so much rather have an antique mirror up on the wall and some pretty paintings resting on the mantle, but sadly it was not meant to be. And believe me, I tried.

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To the left of the fireplace is the credenza, which houses our media equipment and bar glasses.

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To the right of the fireplace is our desk, where I am currently perched as I write this post. The humongous door beside me hides our surprisingly tall and deep closet (which is lucky, because it is quite literally the only closet in our entire apartment). We use it for coats, shoes, tools, Christmas decorations, you name it.

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The other door leads to a very brief hallway with builtin storage (housing crafts and toys) and on to the bedrooms.

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Against the wall behind the couch is our dining table, and another design choice that was made out of necessity. While having a table pushed against the wall is not ideal, we needed to create a walkway to the galley style kitchen, and honestly, it functions just fine for us on a daily basis. The black chairs flanking the couch can be pulled up as additional seating when needed (thus doing double duty, a major plus for small space living), and the table can also be pulled away from the wall to accommodate more people.

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The final door leads to the laundry room and bathroom, and in between that door and the kitchen door is our bookcase.

Now let’s take a closer look around, starting with the sitting area.

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In order to define the space, I used a large braided natural fiber rug. I am seriously obsessed with these rugs and have them in varying sizes all over our apartment. The price is great, they hide dirt (a major plus when you have young kids and pets), are incredibly durable, and go with everything. With the way I like to change around accessories, (I am ashamed to admit I am already sick of those mint and emerald pillows on the couch), I can redecorate to my hearts’ content and never worry about my new finds clashing with the rug. I also love our leather couch- it definitely scratches super easily but the scratches fade (and add character, or so I tell myself) and it couldn’t be easier to wipe down. It’s also surprisingly comfortable in spite of it’s sleek lines. The pillows and throw blanket in varying textures help to make the space feel cozy and inviting, and are where I chose to bring in whatever splash of color I happen to be craving at the time.

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Peppered around the room are many more of my favorite items to decorate with- lamps (such a better glow than overhead lighting- we literally have never turned on the ceiling light in this room), plants for bringing life and a fresh pop of green into the room, family photos, candles, various vessels for holding fresh flowers, books, and some of my favorite found objects that make me happy. That vintage typewriter is not going anywhere for a very long time, so I hope you like seeing it as much as I do! For more tips on how I like to style items in a way that looks layered and collected rather than crowded and haphazard, check out this post.

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You may have noticed (as I did when I went to hang artwork), there isn’t a ton of wall space, what with all of the windows and doors in this room. There is really only one wide expanse of wall that I had to work with, and that was above the dining table. I toyed with the idea of doing a gallery wall, but in the end we opted to display Kevin’s ever-growing guitar collection instead. I love how we have turned something functional (because who knows where we would have stored these things otherwise), into something visually interesting. A win in my book.

So that is our living space in a nutshell! It was a challenge to arrange furniture wise, and the lack of wall space (or space in general) really forced us to get creative with multi-functionality and pare down to only the things we really loved and needed. I will show you what is beyond abnormally large doors number 1, 2, and 3 very soon, (I won’t be showing you inside door number 4, as it is a closet, and while I promise it is relatively tidy and organized, it is certainly not pretty), but in the meantime, let me know what questions you have about this space, decorating for small space living, or just decorating in general! And if you missed the story of our current home and how we came to live here, click to read all about it.

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Photos by Amanda Seifert Photography

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6 months after moving out of our single family house and renting our first apartment downtown, we were finally able to sit back and breathe. Our old house had finally sold, and we were feeling quite settled and content on Queen Street. All of the little projects had been tackled, everything had been hung on the walls, and it felt like home. The ringing of the nearby bells on Church Street had become an expected and welcome sound in the background of our days, and we were used to the constant stream of tourists in front of our windows each day, excitedly pointing out the charming homes and shops along the way. And we lived in one of them! It was pretty idyllic, almost dreamlike, to be able to just focus on the here and now and be happy, without any nagging worries going on behind the scenes.

The problem with dreams, though, is that eventually there is a moment when you have to wake up. Finding out that we wouldn’t be able to renew our lease was that moment for us. Our landlord had decided that he wanted to move into our unit, and we would have to leave. It was quite the blow, learning that we would be forced to pick up and move yet again, with two young kids in a very competitive rental market. We took a minute to mourn and wallow in our bad luck, and then hit the streets looking for a new place to call home. And that’s when we learned, once again, that things often happen for a reason, and maybe there was a place out there that we would love even more.

So let me back track and tell you about the day that we saw the place we are currently calling home. I can still remember the look on the landlord’s face when he saw us walk up to the imposing Charleston double style home towering over Wentworth Street, showing off with its’ ornate Italian style double piazzas and Victorian double doors. His eyes widened in surprise, taking in our double stroller that housed two small children, and he said with an ominous chuckle, “You are all planning to live here? It’ll be tight!” (And he didn’t even know about the dog and two cats yet!). We laughed nervously and assured him that we were used to small living, and apprehensively followed him inside. I have no doubt that as he trekked up the grand staircase ahead of us to the second floor apartment, he was thinking that this would be a complete waste of his time. I, however, was too busy deeply breathing in the musty odor that only accompanies old homes and taking in the intricate plaster work along the moldings and chandelier to care.

After escaping the dank, dimly lit stairwell and patiently waiting for him to open the door to the unit, we were rewarded with a flood of natural light. I think that is what first sold me on this place- all that glorious sunlight streaming through the windows. How could you not be happy in a place like that? Ignoring the college student decor (or lack thereof) and mattresses on the floor, I couldn’t help but look around the place in awe. The shockingly tall ceilings, double fireplaces, huge windows and french doors everywhere I looked had my jaw dropping to the floor. Stepping out onto the large Southern style piazza (which was pathetically adorned with one sad little folding chair at the time), had me dreaming all sorts of dreams of what this space could be. There would be reading, and relaxing, and coffee. Lots and lots of coffee.

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After Kevin and I had kindly thanked the landlord for showing us the place and had pushed the stroller out of ear shot, we both had the exact same sentiments- there was no way we could live there, but we HAD to live there. Let me explain.

So, while we had already downsized, we were still living in a pretty standard set up on Queen Street. We had the lower flat of a 2 story home, with a long driveway for parking, and a backyard. There was a living room, a playroom, a dining room, kitchen, two normal sized bedrooms. Besides the occasional pitter-patter from the neighbors above us, we could almost pretend we were still living in a single family home, so it wasn’t a far stretch from what we were used to. This place, on the other hand, was a far stretch.

For one thing, there was a shared parking lot out back, but no yard for the girls to play in or for the dog to use when nature called, and no additional parking for guests. There was an intimidating amount of stairs leading up to the unit (and I could just imagine the headache that would come with trying to get two children up and down those stairs, along with a cumbersome double stroller). The front door opened right into the living area, with no separate entry. There was also no separate dining area (and only a tiny galley style kitchen), so the dining table would have to be in the living area as well, which, although it felt deceivingly spacious with the super tall ceilings, would definitely be a challenge to arrange furniture wise. The only closet in the entire unit was also in the living area (yes, you read that right, there were no other closets). Immediately to the right of the front door was another door leading to an almost identical room that would be the master bedroom. It felt enormous at first, until we realized that the second bedroom was a tiny room off of the bedroom, so in order to create some sort of pass-through between the bedrooms we would need to figure out a way to divide it up. The current tenants had a long curtain going across the room for privacy, which I wasn’t feeling and knew we would have to come up with a different solution should we decide to live there. I had no idea how we would fit a bed and a crib into the second bedroom, let along something to store clothes. And what about the toys? There was no way we could store toys in that bedroom, and the living space would already be cramped housing both living room and dining room furniture. There was just no way we could make it work.

And yet…

That natural light. Those windows. Two fireplaces. Three sets of french doors leading out onto a breathtaking piazza. A claw foot bath tub. An entire wall of built-ins in the bathroom. Ornate crown moldings. Original wood floors. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. We went home that night still discussing the place on Wentworth, going back and forth over how many challenges there would be to make it work for our family. We looked up the history of the home and learned that it had been built around 1850. It had survived the Civil War, the great earthquake, and Hurricane Hugo. Finally our weakness for historic charm and character (and our apparent need to make things difficult for ourselves) won out and we put in an application. I think by now you should know that Kevin and I tend to follow our hearts over our heads, (for better or worse), and just trust that everything will work out. I was nervous but also excited for the challenges ahead. If I could make this space work for us, I could make any space work…right?

Almost 7 months later, and I can’t believe we ever doubted we could do it. I am going to share a tour of our space very very soon, (I would do it now but I think this novelesque post is quite long enough for one day, and thank you if you have stuck with me this far!) along with some of the things that helped make it possible for our family of four to live comfortably in less than 1000 square feet (spoiler alert: purging and de-cluttering was huge). Until then, here is a little teaser of the outside of the building.

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Wouldn’t you need to live here too?!

Photographs by Amanda Seifert Photography

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When we first looked at the two-bedroom flat on Queen Street that would later become our first home downtown (we are now in our second home, and if you are having trouble keeping up with us nomads I wouldn’t blame you in the least), we were hopeful that there would be an extra space somewhere in that 1000 square feet for the girls to play. We were dedicating an entire large bedroom as a playroom at the time, and weren’t keen on the idea of storing all of the toys in the bedroom, as we wanted the bedroom to be a place for reading and resting. So imagine our excitement when we opened the door to a teeny tiny room off of the living room that would make the perfect spot for the girls to play. When I say tiny, I am not exaggerating, but the tenants living there at the time had managed to squeeze a twin bed into there in an attempt to turn the two bedroom into a three bedroom, so we were confident we could make it work.

I still remember the first night we moved in, after setting up the girls’ beds and getting them to sleep, their new play area was the first room I unpacked. I wanted to have a retreat for them amid the cardboard boxes and chaos surrounding us, and for them to be excited about their new space. Oddly enough, I actually enjoy decorating smaller spaces more than large ones. They have their challenges for sure, but I would much rather select a few favorite items and make the space extra special and cozy than have a vast space that I am unsure how to fill. This room, I can tell you, was a piece of cake to fill!

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After laying down a soft braided rug for play in the middle of the room, I began by placing the bulkiest pieces of furniture along the biggest walls, in a sort of galley arrangement. The pink shelf went to the left, and in the corner bedside it was the play kitchen.

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I used the play market shelving mainly as a place to store play food, but some board books and toys were also placed in bins on the floor for easy access.

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On top, I added a few decorative touches to give the room some vintage charm- a milk glass lamp, an antique vase with sweet little paper flowers, and some colorful old tins. On the wall above I hung a trio of cuckoo clocks.

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On the opposite wall I placed (heaved is a better word I suppose) our large cube shelving, which housed the majority of our puzzles, blocks, games, and various other toys. I kept most of the toys sorted into bins and baskets to make for easy clean up and also minimize visual clutter in the tiny space.

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I used the surface on top for a cheerful yellow ginger lamp, antique globe, and art supplies. Leaning against the wall is our art work display- a large frame that has been re-purposed by simply adding some wire and clothes pins.

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To the right of the display shelf I used that narrow strip of wall for some picture ledges to display children’s books. This is still one of my favorite tricks for children’s spaces- not only are the books beautiful and artwork in themselves, but children are more likely to read them if they can see the eye-catching covers.

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In the corners by the window, I squeezed in a cute little chair for grown ups to comfortably sit, as well as a  table and chairs for the girls to get crafty at.  Above the table I hung a couple of Ikea spice racks to store extra craft items.

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Some pompom trimmed sheer curtains were hung to frame the window, with more artwork draped across, and the room was complete!

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I realize “cozy nook” is an understatement, but I can tell you that when Penny and Lucy saw this room, they didn’t care for one second about the lost square footage. I loved that they could play right near the living and dining area (I mean really, it was near the kitchen and bedrooms too- have I mentioned how small this place was?) and we could go about our adult business while still keeping an eye on them. Most people probably looked at this bonus space and saw “walk in closet” or “office,” but as a playroom it suited our needs just fine. And if you think this was getting creative, just wait until you see what we did to make a play space for the girls in our current place! It definitely required some out of the box thinking, but I always say I love a (design) challenge.

Click on over to see the girls’ old playroom, and if you are curious for a tour of the rest of our Queen Street home, here is the living room, girls’ bedroom, and entryway. I’m planning on sharing a tour of our current home very soon, so stay tuned!

Photographs by Amanda Seifert Photography

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Count Your Blessings

December has not been the easiest of months as far as parenting goes. It has little to do with the fact that Lucy is teething yet again and Penny seems to have officially given up naps, and more to do with the fact that I have had to do so much of it alone. Kevin’s job has once again forced him to spend days at a time jetting off to opposite ends of the country, causing me to have more pity parties than I care to admit.

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Parenting by yourself is no joke, and not just because you are forced to handle all of the responsibilities- all of the meal prep and post meal clean up and diapers and middle of the night wake ups (although that is a huge part of it), it’s also hard because it’s just plain lonely. When your 3 year old decides to use a new word  like “disgusting” but it’s completely out of context (“Mommy I feel so disgusting” while happily rubbing her belly), or starts calling you “honey” (which feels incredibly condescending and sweet at the same time), you want to be able to look into your partner’s smiling eyes and laugh about it. Or when your almost 2 year old struts around the house saying “Dada, where are youuuu” on repeat, you can’t help but feel a little sad. I know there are people in this situation all the time, or for months at a time while their partners are deployed, and my experience is nothing to cry about by comparison, but I’m just saying. When I am in the middle of yet another week of parenting alone, it does feel like something to cry about.

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On one such night, because I was relying on the television to lighten my parenting duties but couldn’t stomach yet another episode of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, I took Netflix’s suggestion and started playing “White Christmas.” The girls were pretty enthralled by the eye catching costumes and song and dance numbers, but the scene where Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney bump into each other while searching in the kitchen for a midnight snack is what really caught my attention. Do you know the scene? They sing a duet called “Count Your Blessings,” and it goes like this:

When I’m worried and I can’t sleep
I count my blessings instead of sheep and I fall asleep counting my blessings
When my bankroll is getting small I think of when I had none at all
and I fall asleep counting my blessings.

I think about a nursery,
and I picture curly heads,
and one by one I count them
as they slumber in their beds.

If you’re worried and you cant sleep,
just count your blessings instead of sheep
and you’ll fall asleep counting your blessings.

This song really resonated with me, and helped me to look outside of my own little problems and gain some perspective. Because it really is all about perspective isn’t it? Yes my husband has to go out of town a lot and yes this stage of parenting two small children is hard and yes I’m exhausted and yes it sucks going to bed alone. But I have a loving husband who works hard for his family and when he is here he is 100 percent here, and we have the privilege of raising these two perfect little creatures who we love more than life, in our beautiful little home in our beautiful little city and my God we are so lucky.

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Ever since that night, I have tried this little exercise of counting my blessings as I drift off to sleep, and it truly helps. It helps me to be mindful, and present, and grateful, and just at peace. Most importantly, it helps me to be a happier person, which is what we are all striving to be, right?

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The envelopes on our advent calendar are quickly dwindling down as I knew they would, and somehow only five remain to be opened. Five days until Christmas. Five perfect days where we can eat too many cookies and watch too many cheesy holiday movies and spend too many hours of the day in our pajamas, and just be together. With Kevin home for the holidays and it being the most wonderful time of the year and all, it’s really easy to be happy. But even when it gets harder, which it inevitably will, I’m hoping I can remember to count my blessings, because they are plentiful indeed.

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Happy Holidays to you all, and may your blessings be too bountiful to count.

Photographs by Amanda Seifert Photography

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The first day of December has arrived! I can officially blast Bing Crosby and Judy Garland to my hearts content, dress my girls in Christmas sweaters, and deck my halls with wild abandon. Usually I am a firm believer in waiting until at least the day after Thanksgiving to put up the tree, but since we were going to be out of town this year, we caved and put it up the Sunday before. The girls were crazy excited, and it was so fun embracing the chaos and letting them dig into the ornament bin, oohing and ahhing at every one. Lucy preferred handing us ornaments to put on, but Penny was a very busy little elf, carefully choosing the perfect spot for each shiny bulb (which often happened to be the very bottom of the tree).

As an interior decorator, I have had to learn to find a balance between creating a stylishly decorated holiday home and a home that embodies what the season is all about- family. Before kids, I had the perfect tree (with ornaments peppered evenly throughout), the heavy reindeer stocking holders perched on the mantle, the delicate glass bulbs dangling from every branch. Since having two little ones, adjustments have had to be made, but truth be told our home has never been so beautiful. The homemade decorations created by tiny hands and the glittery hand cut snow flakes taped to the windows are so precious and sweet, and add such a feeling of joy to our home. I am proud to show you how we have brought the season into our home this year, managing to create a winter wonderland that excites both the interior decorator-minded Mommy and the brightly colored and glitter loving children.

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For the last several years, I have stuck with a very neutral color scheme of golds, silvers, coppers, whites and creams, and I have yet to get sick of it. After paring down our Christmas decorations greatly after our massive purge, I was left with only the ones I truly loved, and was excited to unwrap each and every item this year.

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While I usually drape a classic garland on the mantle, I decided to go with something different (and less messy)- a lighted branch garland and a leaf garland made out of sheet music. The stockings were hung with command hooks so I wouldn’t have to worry about the girls pulling heavy stocking holders down on themselves. Two glittery trees flank the tv to create balance, and some of my usual clear and milk glass vases are hanging out as well, with a few pine cones here and there to complete the nature vibe.

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On the tree, I kept with the same color scheme. The tree makes me super happy because of the neutral colors (which are still so interesting due to their shiny sparkly nature), varying shapes and textures, and unique and precious ornaments (the more fragile of which are hung near the top), but the girls love it as well because of the whimsical butterflies, silk flowers and woodland animals. The majority of the ornaments are plastic so the girls can safely hang and rehang bulbs to their hearts’ content, and the paper sheet music leaf garland helps to add an organic flow to the tree. A simple bit of burlap wrapped around the base of the tree completes the look.

A couple tips to make your Christmas tree the perfect mix of styled and family friendly:

  • Choose a defined color scheme
  • Vary shapes and textures
  • Don’t just hang ornaments on the ends of branches- put some further in to create a sense of depth
  • Get creative with garland- ribbon is classic, but there are no limits to what you could use!
  • Make it personal with family photos and heirlooms
  • No need for a traditional tree skirt- a piece of cloth or even a basket housing the base of the tree would do just as nicely!
  • Organic and natural trumps perfect any day!
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I managed to sprinkle a bit of Christmas throughout the rest of the house as well, mostly with nature inspired trees that went along with my theme. The felt tree and ornaments activity on the wall in the dining area is something I made for Penny 2 years ago- a rather ambitious endeavor that involved a stressful and expensive trip to Joann Fabrics, and lots of cutting and glue gunning. Hours later, I got a call from a friend saying that she had found one for $10 at Target. Sigh. But, the girls love it, so there’s that!

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My favorite area of our home, however, is the girls’ play area. The small gold tree on their table is where they were able to put all their fun and colorful ornaments, and they love having it there to enjoy and frequently redecorate when they are working on crafts. On the wall behind the tree is where all of their artwork is displayed, and I predict it is going to get a lot more crowded in the coming weeks.

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In our bedroom is another small tree- what can I say, I like to be surrounded by Christmas! And on the bedroom mantle are our handmade snow globes as well as our advent calendar. I made this a couple of years ago as a way to help us make the most of the season, and we still love it today. I appreciate the visual reminder of how many days are left until Christmas (because let’s face it, toddlers have no concept of time), but I also love how it seems to keep the month from getting away from us. By planning out a list of things we want to make sure we do in preparation for Christmas, we are able to do one thing each day and really spread out the fun. Some of the activities are bigger, like going to the Festival of Lights or visiting Santa, and others are simpler, like making a craft or having cocoa with a holiday movie.

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And finally, all of our Christmas and winter themed books are on display to encourage frequent reading of them. I’m still not sure how we have managed to accumulate so many in such a few short years, but we love them all.

This is such a magical time of year, and now that our home is feeling festive and our activities are planned out (not to mention most of the shopping done, phew!) I am so ready to just sit back and embrace this cozy time spent with loved ones. I hope you find a way to fully enjoy this time as well! Do what makes you and your family happy, and you can’t go wrong. For us, that will mean plenty of cocoa drinking, cookie baking, and holiday music all day every day. Happy December!

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