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Do You Ever Need To Regroup In The Middle Of A Project?

Well all right then. After a few misfires around here, 2016 is on. Thank heavens for the Lunar New Year, which gives us time to catch up.

As you know, this blog covers personal style, gardening, house decor and the meaning of life. The house discussion, however, has lagged. Whenever I notice laggards I like to sweep back through my notes with a grand Just Where Are We Exactly?

I would like to beg your indulgence and post a status on my house’s putative refurbishing. Let’s go room by room. You are doing me a great service by listening.

When last we talked, here’s what was.

The Front Door

Front Door In Hiding

I painted the whole exterior in the same color and, finally, my front door black. I put out a red pot with pink cyclamen. Now it’s just about time to update the planting for spring, I’m considering pink primroses. The door color, Benjamin Moore Blacktop.


The Kitchen


No changes to be made here. Our cabinets and flooring are old, but, expensive and can wait. I love those black granite counters to pieces and I couldn’t care one whit whether they are on trend or not.

The Living & Dining Rooms (Well, Areas Really, You Can See The Kitchen To The Left)




I have loved the pouf and the glass table. I hung Lily’s painting back up, in that white space between fireplace and window. I put the flowered blue pillows away, and for now have taken some light aqua ones out of the closet. Still assuming I’ll find something new. In good time. As for my table, I’m thinking rambunctious for the 2016 holidays. Should be fun.

Home Office

We have a home office I haven’t shown you. Furnishings? Office equipment and books. My husband’s domain. However, here’s my contribution to the space – two photo montages I asked my stepmother to make as my husband’s Christmas present. Gracious person that she is, they came out beautifully.

The Laundry Room


I like my laundry room and its baskets every day. Something about cleaning it up made its light cleaner too, and more suffusive. Which isn’t a word, but when does that stop us?

The Powder Room



Our little powder room has been painted. White, as opposed to greenish white. Improved. Also, “powder room” is a weird term but “little room with sink, toilet, and oval mirror” is a mouthful so euphemisms ‘r us. Sigh, the little clay pieces my kids made.

The Guest Room



Absolutely the least finished room in the house. I got the Merida rug. Next I tried aqua patterned lamp shades, thinking to go crazy, but no. Went instead with a couple of matching off-white lamp shades, then stopped dead in my tracks. Draped an old turquoise silk shawl over that dark dresser. Better, still not good.

I’ve walked past this room’s door for months and only just realized it doesn’t get enough light throughout the day to support the contrast of dark wood/off-white rug and walls, plus color. So I’m choosing color, and will replace the Pottery Barn dresser by rehabilitating an old chestnut-colored English wood piece that sits damaged in my garage.

Then I’ll go crazy. Ish.

Oh, and I tried to buy, at online auction, this table to match my grandmother’s. But I failed to get my payment method approved on time. I’m learning. Refurbishing and redecorating is infinitely less frustrating if I value the process over the outcome.

The Workroom


To be honest, this is a more a “storing files until my son visits also sauntering out to check my butterfly garden” room than actual work space, but I like it. Still haven’t painted the bookcase. Have come round to believing you all were right about a dark gray. Have bought paint. Let’s say that’s progress.

The Guest Bathroom

We do have a guest bathroom that I’ve never talked about. All pretty pale green tiles, and cute cabinet knobs. But when I had the interiors painted I chose the wrongest possible white for this room. Now I’m pouting. I’m thinking of sending my dilemma to Ask Maria at Maria Killam’s site. Or you guys could tell me your thoughts if you are so inclined.

The Master Bedroom

Untitled #189
In the not-too-far-distant future, this will be the most “done,” the most glamorous room in our house. I want to hang one of my stepmother’s photos too.

The Master Bath


Proof that I may eventually decipher color. Still love this pink fawn taupe.

A Few Niceties

Of course, I’ve got a list of what comes next.

  • A tray for the top of the dresser in my bedroom to house my Murano glass, in a vignette like Emily Henderson advises. I like this, from Novica. Also needed, pendant lamp.
  • Curtains for the guest room. Have to be long off-white sheers, right?
  • A chaise longue for said guest room.
  • Figuring out auctions so I can get my hands on a Federal-style worktable, again for said guest room.
  • Paint the workroom bookcase. If I say that over and over again will it happen of its own accord?
  • And, eventually, All The Fabrics, for bedroom cushions, upholstering the aforesaid but still mythical chaise longue, living room pillows. Given my track record with color to date, I think it’s wise to move slowly.

Lessons Along The Way.

  • Use experts, but give them all relevant information and don’t be afraid to disagree.
  • If you don’t know what to do, sit and wait. Rooms will tell you what they want eventually.
  • Light is the most important thing. Like photography, and gardening, furnishings are the light in which you see them.
  • Be prepared to learn about your cognitive shortcomings and laugh about your mistakes.
  • And, in a specific personal lesson, I realize how How Unfussy And Very Comfortable my house is. How, in fact, I like it that way because don’t want a Too Done space. I like the light, and the empty bit as much or more than the actual furnishings. I guess in 2016 I might be a Classic Minimalist Bohemian, but in my century, I’m but a Californian High WASP in a 1953 rancher. Who likes to wear pajamas at home.

Thank you for listening. I always appreciate your thoughts and advice.



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65 Responses

  1. I think your house is looking great–and especially since I know how difficult it is to take decent photos of rooms. I need to embark on some home decor decisions as well. Our smallest guest bedroom is going to become a nursery for an in town expected grandchild (to be bore very late March). I think it will be fun to do a nursery. When our own children were born, we had hand me down everything. It was fine. But now, I can afford a new crib and even a changing table. I think I am having some fun.

    We built our house in 1993–have already redone the master bath and the kitchen, but have some projects to go. It is NOT easy (or inexpensive).

  2. I used to like photos of fancy minimalistic homes ,than I realized:
    – they look unihabited
    -“personalized” items were not personal
    -my house ( when guests are in-so it is tidy and fixed) looks pretty cool on photos and like home
    -I love my home
    -I vote for comfortable
    After my feet operation I realized that my apartement is totaly ergonomic (maybe to stop boast here?)
    We have very similar kitchens (only my is a mess), house door and similar estetic in bathroom departement.
    It all means that I love how your home looks like.
    I prefer white walls and white-ish courtains,like a white canvas from where I can go crazy (or not)
    For the record: I don’t think that I am good in decoration,sometimes thing just happens!
    If the guest room would be mine,I’ll go with white-ish window decor,brighter linen and bedlamps more delicate,for the beginning
    But,I admire your taste and knowledge,so I trust in you! I was here only for listening and enjoyed it. Especially lessons!
    Your stepmother’s pictures are great

    1. @dottoressa, Thank you. It sounds to me that you are good at decoration – the way you are at personal style. And I’m learning to take something away from photos, even as I understand that they are wholly unreal;).

  3. Your decorating posts reflect my journey in decorating. When we first moved to DC from Nowheresville, PA, my husband and I tried to decorate all at once. That went poorly. We have learned from that.

    Now we have moved again, to a bigger apartment with an office for the husband and a view of the Washington Monument. It’s halfway furnished and we are okay with that. The right furniture and decorations will reveal themselves to us when they choose. We just need to be patient and enjoy the floor to ceiling windows. That’s not so bad.

    1. @Faith Bavonese, I’ve lived in Nowheresville, PA myself. I found it anathema to house decor! A view of the Washington Monument, and floor to ceiling windows, would be just glorious. I am sure your space will reveal itself to you in good time.

  4. I love house projects and love that you’re sharing yours with us.

    The kitchen in our last house was similar to yours. Installing new floors and cabinets was not a top priority and too expensive. We did, however, change the cabinet and drawer pulls. For the life of me I can’t think of the word I’m looking for to describe the metal we used (not chrome, but the same color). In any event, it made a huge difference.

    1. @Leslie K, I am so glad you don’t mind my sharing what is a process and slow on the product;). I agree, cabinet pulls can be a wonderful change. In this case, I want to keep the uninterrupted flow of white, as the space is small, and essentially part of the living and dining rooms. But, new white pulls might be something.

  5. You are so right! Light is everything. Sorry you didn’t get the table. But another will come up! If not at auction maybe at habitat’s ReStore or GoodWill.

    Show us a pic (several) of the green tile and I’ll be happy to chime in on color.

    1. @Linda Pakravan, It turned out that to bid I needed a second level of approval on top of the account. Who knew>!?!?! And I will rustle up some photos of the green tile and see what you wise ones have to say!

  6. One hint to make your kitchen look upgraded in an instant (I have this same issue and I’m doing this: Replace the white cupboard door handle with something sleek and metal and that will make your kitchen look DONE. I love your counter tops, too.

    I love your choice of the chaise for the guest room…a nice cozy reading corner. Do you have a lamp and side table for it? Yard sale and more paint!

    Your front door area is SO welcoming! Don’t change a thing. Well, if you must, the flowers.

  7. One hint to make your kitchen look upgraded in an instant (I have this same issue and I’m doing this: Replace the white cupboard door handle with something sleek and metal and that will make your kitchen look DONE. I love your counter tops, too.

    I love your choice of the chaise for the guest room…a nice cozy reading corner. Do you have a lamp and side table for it? Yard sale and more paint!

    Please show us the powder room so we may think about it.

    Your front door area is SO welcoming! Don’t change a thing. Well, if you must, the flowers.

  8. Loving the process is all, right?
    These last months of major schedule/life change and of travel and of contemplating a big move have had me looking closely at what I love in my own home and what I’d like to change. I’m also thinking back to what you said in an earlier post about how much time it took, post-retirement, to get caught up with yourself, and I’m taking some steps back from major decisions in deference to getting caught up first.
    Allowing process to direct an evolution of product seems so wise and you’ve got so much right already, such a very livable place for you and your loved ones.

  9. Your home has great bones and I love that you have lots of light…if I were to do one thing and this is just my opinion I would put orchids and fresh cut flowers in all of your rooms! Bring your green thumb gardening inside as nature always gets it right!

  10. The reminder that valuing the process over the outcome lessens frustration is invaluable itself—note taken!

  11. My grandmother had one of those worktables and now my mom has it. With a big Murano bowl atop.

    I was always fascinated with it as a kid (and with the matching “game table”) because of the way the top opened up!

    I am in the process of downsizing from my giant Brooklyn 19th c. townhouse, which we never really occupied successfully, to a small Brooklyn space. Very interested to read others’ decorating adventures.

  12. I love that pouf! It looks so perfect and cozy yet sophisticated. Aah…

    And yes, light is so important. Thankfully my house has some really good southern-facing windows and I’ve been enjoying indoor gardening lately. Bringing plants inside adds a touch of life and green to this snowy Midwestern winter! Plus putting hands in the soil always feels so good.

  13. Love hearing about your decorating adventures. The older I get, the less I worry about what others like or what the trends are. I need only worry about what works for me and my family.

  14. I enjoy your house projects and your respect of space instead of over-decoration and clutter. With less stuff, small tweaks make a huge difference. I recently painted a couple closet doors and the inside frame of my kitchen window black. Changed the master bedroom comforter. Instead of painting built-in shelves, I removed most of the books and restyled the contents. Slow and steady.

  15. Unfussy and comfortable. Yes! Minimalism. Yes! Touch of High WASP bohemian. Yes! The older I get, the less I like “stuff”. However, that can be carried too far. Like Dottoressa said, it can make a place look uninhabited. You seem to have found a nice balance. After 38 years of marriage and three kids, I’m trying to get to a similar place.

    1. @Mary anne, Thank you. And 38 years and 3 kids will not in and of itself lead to minimalism:). But, I do not recommend divorce for decluttering, even though it has that effect.

    1. @TheHuntingHouse, Hmm, both listers’ HQs are in Rhode Island. But only the eBay lister has disclosed that the table has been refinished — the surefire kiss of death for serious antiques collectors. Even so, that’s a dandy little price for a refinished 1830 work stand.

  16. Lisa, your house looks comfortable with a minimalist style. I wish I could be more of a minimalist, but it’s not going to happen – too many things I love coupled with family antiques we would never part with. I love the flowers beside your black door. My black front door needs “something” and I think you’ve just solved the problem for me.

    Happy Valentine’s Day to you and your husband.

  17. Lisa, you are loving the space within the space, it helps to remind me I don’t need to fill every inch with stuff but just appreciate space as much as stuff.
    My daughter just moved out (finally, sigh, it’s been a Long Journey) and now I will have, for the first time in my life, a ‘room’. It will double as a guest room with a sofa bed, so I’ll have to share it sometimes, but I now get to set it up for me. To take my laptop in there and books and comfy couch that I can nap on in the middle of the day in private. Not that I get to do that very much, but knowing the space is there to do is really a luxury. Hubster is leaving tomorrow on a 2 week trip, so my treat is to get ‘my room’ set up. I’m looking at buying a rug, a wall picture, a side table and a large pouffe that can double as a coffee table or footstool. Always wanted one of those. But first, the carpet cleaner must be summoned. I love my daughter, but she had an awful habit of eating just about all her meals in bed. And not taking the dishes to the sink. Ugh. A clean, a spruce and then it shall be mine. I love homemaking.

    1. @Tracey, Oh what a joy to get those carpets clean! In spirit and in reality. Sorry you have had a Long Journey, but I am very happy to imagine you finally having A Room too:).

  18. You live (typed love, but I guess that applies too) differently in your house now, so you have to see how that plays out for you all.

    2016 is the Year of Exterior Doors for us. We are going to (finally!) get doors to fit our house, rather than trying to make the house fit the doors.

    1. @Patsy, True. Want to make the house work for the new family structure. Don’t let those doors “monkey around” with you. Hahahaha. Love a good dumb joke now and again.

  19. I love your kitchen! New knobs may make all the difference in the world, if you feel a need for a small spruce up. And I love your house and the combination of simplicity, space, light, and comfort. I’ve been thinking it may be time for me to tackle the next little something in my own space, but I’m all for letting things settle and find their place

  20. Looks like good choices. I like a house to have a put together over time look, seems you are the same. I LOVE the front door color. Also I think we have the same china pattern.

    1. @Charlene, Thank you! And which pattern? The simple white from Crate and Barrel? The gold-rimmed Lenox? Or the goofy but pretty blue, white and gold bowls celebration a Swedish coronation?:)

  21. You’ve accomplished so much to have such a long list of yet to be dones! You are so right that rooms tell you what they want eventually. I like that you’ve done a little here and there, and it all looks so lovely. Do you find yourself staring at each space on a regular basis, and thinking, thinking? I’m afraid the spaces I’m not ready to deal with, I would just close the door and not look for a while! You’ve accomplished so much – bravo!

    1. @Candace, Oh, yes, I had the door to the guest room and the workroom closed for months! But eventually I realized that if I didn’t look at them, even though it was painful, they would never get better:). Thank you for the encouragement.

  22. Looks great. Curious why no coffee table in front of the living room sofa?

    About to re-do our master bedroom, but I always have to have it all decided before I proceed. I guess it’s because I was a designer?

    1. @Kathy, Oh, there is a second, full-size sofa kitty-corner to the one I show. So imagine that there’s a coffee table that bisects the “Eileen Gray” table, and a matching sofa behind the coffee table.

      I am envious of your ability to furnish a room in your mind before you start, I imagine that it’s partly because you were a designer but also because you have such a strong visual brain.

    2. OK, now I feel settled that there’s a coffee table and I have a place to put a glass of wine! Yes, I have the ability to do it in my mind, but I do still “draft” a room for furniture scale, and then I gather the fabrics.

      I actually having a hard time with our bedroom because I’m keeping a lot of what’s here already and just changing a few things. Hmmmm….

  23. Have you heard of the White Elehant Sale in Oakland? Run by the Women’s Board of the Oakland Museum of art, it is held in a large warehouse off the freeway. It can be an amazing place to find furniture, old linens, lamps, and art. If you have a free day, take over some donations, get pass and go browse. You might find some amazing things! It is like the best thrift store/estate sale, but to the power of 100.

  24. I think you should consider swapping out the red pot on your front entry for a simple, modern, black one.

    That way you’d have free reign with your flower colors, instead of having to coordinate them with the red pot.

    With a black pot, I think yellowy-orange primroses would look amazing with your house color.

    1. @Diane, That would be another approach, and would work. For now I am enjoying the constraints of the red pot + pink flowers model, but it’s quite possible I’ll move on in while.

  25. Home decorating and updating is not my best skill. I do find going to ‘open houses’ with my cell phone/camera helps me know what I like and what will work in my open plan, contemporary home. When I see something I like, I snap a photo.

    For example, I know I want to install marble slabs over my brick fireplace. I learned about heat pumps and have installed them. My entire kitchen redesign came from an ‘open house’ that I attended. I love how this came out. Susan

  26. I love your lounge rug! An old family piece? It’s super-beautiful. I would love something similar, but they’re an investment.

    We have a house now! Moved about two weeks ago into a rather large 3 bed Victorian terraced house from a small one bed furnished flat. We’ve been frantically (and I use that word advisedly) running around trying to gather the most important bits of furniture from charity shops and people selling their stuff online i.e. a bed frame, a computer desk and managing to gather some less important but lovely bits i.e. a brass standard lamp with lion feet!

    We’re struggling with a very narrow front door and very narrow loft bedroom stairs so there are flat packs sitting waiting to be assembled and no sofa yet.

    But with all that, and still hanging sheets over the curtain rails instead of curtains, we have stopped. Too busy, too tired, too much.

    We will have to get there very slowly as being made redundant, trying to find a new job, still commuting a lot for work and just doing daily life stuff all takes time. Actual painting, re-carpeting, a new bathroom etc. is even further down the line (so I have to live with things like lemon yellow walls clashing with mustard flowers on tiles around the fire, and pinky-terracotta stained and ripped carpet). Oh well…

  27. This is late, but Happy Lunar New Year! I really appreciate how you remember this holiday. :)

    Thanks for sharing the pictures of your home. I really love interior design, so I enjoy following your progress, which seems to be coming along quite well. I like how your interiors look like a home – a place where real people hang out & live life. While I like looking at the magazines as much as anyone else, most of the time I can’t picture actual people living in such spaces.

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