Today, we’re rounding out the Summer Essentials series with a focus on what’s probably the most visible room in your home: the living room. Check out my favorites!
It’s so interesting how your spending habits can change the instant that your husband has full transparency of your finances upon the creation of a joint bank account. In the years before joint checking, I’d buy whatever my heart desired, whenever my heart desired it. Clothes, shoes, home décor, you name it. If it was on sale and cute, it was mine in approximately 3-5 business days. I was a bit reckless. Oops.
Now, things are different. I’ve done a little growing up, I’ve become infinitesimally more responsible, and I respect that I can’t be careless with our money like I could be with mine. But mostly, I feel like Skyler won’t consider a brand-new jewel-toned velvet sofa as crucial of a purchase as I do, and if he came home to that beautiful, soft, wonderful, perfect little sofa in our living room, he would not be as thrilled as I’d like him to be. So, as we have begun to navigate this aspect of married life together, we’ve been handling all non-essential purchases as joint decisions.
Enter: Skyler’s new set of golf clubs, and a set budget for me to spruce up the interior of our home in any (reasonable) way I’d like.
The crazed frenzy of spring cleaning is, for me, not something that happens just once a year. Instead, I’m almost constantly reimagining the spaces in our home. What can we donate, repurpose or sell? How can we organize this? Should we rearrange the furniture? How can we spruce up this room? I am always looking at our home through a lens of opportunity. How can I make this space even better than it already is?
So, in the spirit of falling in love with your home all over again this summer, I’ve rounded up my top 10 must-have items to spruce up every room in your house, all under $50. Today, let’s talk about the kitchen!
We’ve almost been homeowners for almost an entire year! I feel so lucky to have our perfect little home with our perfect little family full of pets, but on some level, it also feels kind of crazy. Like, we’re real adults. With a mortgage.
Growing up, my mom had a distinct style in her home. If I had to name it, maybe I’d say it was a mix of rustic Americana and garden-inspired. But no matter where she lived, every square inch oozed with this stylized life that she would breathe into it. There were lots of trinkets filling the space, each with their own story, but it was never overbearing. In fact, it was a space that could make you feel like there was no other place in the entire home for that woven basket than exactly where it was. It was homey and inviting, unique to her personality and clean. Never a fleck of dust anywhere. And it always smelled sweet.
Now that we have a home of our own, my favorite part is the blank canvas I have for decorating and for making it my own, just like my mom always did. And it’s a space that’s completely ours! I’m not renting from a total stranger, or sharing common spaces with roommates. It’s our home, totally and completely. And that’s really freakin’ exciting.
For someone who is inherently skeptical of change, it’s a little wild to think about how drastically different my life is today than it was just one year ago.
One year ago, I was preparing to leave behind life as I knew it in Pittsburgh, and take the next step in my career in Philadelphia. I was apprehensive because life had been comfortable – I knew the city like the back of my hand, I was established in my job, and I had a strong and unwavering support system of friends. Leaving all of those things behind made me nervous (and sad), but I knew that it was a move I had to make. I had to push myself and I had to grow. So I did.
But quickly after I arrived in Philadelphia, I felt like something just didn’t fit. I wasn’t homesick for Pittsburgh, and I wasn’t lonely. But the idea that I had about what my life would be like in my new role in this new city just wasn’t coming to fruition. I wish I had a more elegant way to quantify that feeling, but it was something that crept in slowly and quietly.
Within two weeks of being a Philadelphia resident, I took a long weekend and I went home to surprise my brothers at their football games. It was October – I have a deep-seeded infatuation with October – and the air was crisp. It was a perfect fall day in central Pennsylvania: calm and quiet with the slightest breeze. I felt relaxed, and happy to be in my hometown: a place of true comfort and ease. For the first time, I appreciated being able to walk barefoot through the grass, an uncommon privilege in the city. There was an ever-present feeling of being home that had, up until that weekend, gone unnoticed.
It took less than 3 months for me to admit to myself that I wasn’t doing what I wanted to be doing, and I wasn’t where I wanted to be. I felt frustrated, as anyone might when their ideas and life plans don’t work out like they hoped. The passion and fire that I wanted to have for my career had quickly fizzled, and soon, I was simply going through the motions because that’s what I was supposed to do. I felt disengaged and desperate, but I didn’t have a backup plan.
Instinctively, I looked home. Days continued to whirl by, and I finally let my boyfriend, Skyler, in on my decision to move back to central PA. He was someone I had been friends with many moons ago – we had been nearly inseparable for the single semester that our collegiate careers crossed paths – and as luck would have it, we reconnected at home that weekend in October. However, I had tried to keep him in the dark. It wasn’t because I wanted to hide anything from him – in fact, it was sometimes physically painful not to share these things with him – but because this was a decision I needed to make for myself. I’m from a small town, and I’m not ignorant to how the rumor mill operates, so I tried to keep my relationship with him mutually exclusive from the career change I was hoping for. However, as time went on, I leaned heavily on him on days when I would be frustrated, and soon, that exclusivity faded. He was my cheerleader, and coming home turned into something I wanted not only for my career, but on a deep and personal level, too.
Fast forward to today. It’s my second week as a Franchise Business Consultant with Soccer Shots, an organization that is focused on character development and positively impacting children through the sport of soccer. It’s home to a team of truly wonderful, caring and encouraging people, who want to do good and make a difference in the world. I even have the opportunity to coach this fall season. If you would have asked me ever if this role is something I thought I would take on, there’s a chance I would have laughed. Me? Sports? Business? Funny! But when something is right, it’s right. There was never an ounce of doubt; I knew this was something I wanted to be a part of.
And I’m home. After I leave the office each day, I know that I’ll soon be walking through the front door to find Dale wagging his tail, Skyler on the sofa watching Impractical Jokers and Buxton peeking around the corner at the top of the steps. I’m just a moment’s notice away from a last-minute dinner with my mom or an evening spent at my dad’s with my brothers. I have time to do the things I’ve always enjoyed – reading, cooking, writing.
For the first time, it feels like everything is exactly how it should be. Everything fits. And, despite my aversion to change, change is exactly what brought me here: home.
A few months ago, I had the crazy idea to build shelves in our living room. Four simple, white shelves on each side of the fireplace. I was excited and I was nervous. I had never built anything that didn’t come with instructions. Not even the catapult required to pass Mr. Storrick’s high school Physics class. (Shout out to you, Mike Myers.) But, we were determined to make our house feel more like a home, and we thought shelves would be just the thing.
I scrounged up a measuring tape only to discover that our fireplace is 10″ off center. So, with two different measurements and a ton of ideas in mind, we headed off to Busy Beaver.
Two months, one quart of frozen paint, one shipment of wooden brackets from Ikea, one paint-stained pair of Under Armour pants, one brand new drill, and six packs of whatever kind of screw we needed to stick into our drywall-covered-brick walls later, we were ready to begin actually hanging the shelves.
This is the part where I completely passed the baton. It took forever to get four shelves hung perfectly, which I now attribute to the fact that not only is our fireplace not centered in our living room, but the walls themselves are crooked. Pittsburgh homes. I tell ya. Gotta love ’em.
Fortunately, I know a few handy people, and my shelf dreams came true. (Disclaimer: Half of my dreams come true. Somebody managed to score tickets to last night’s playoff game, so our shelf hanging timeframe was minimized. We’ll get the other half done… eventually.) Check out the fruits of our labor… and Lauren Graham’s “Those shelves look amazing!” face!
Even Buxton is happy with the upgrades!
For a few months, I have been mentally redesigning our home. I have a pretty hefty list of upgrades I want to make in order for it to feel more like, well, home. After an embarrassing number of hours watching HGTV and scouring Pinterest, I decided I was ready to begin on our living room.
A few weeks ago, when two of our roommates moved out, taking the living room television and entertainment center with them, we began our overhaul. A quick shopping trip for a big screen TV, sound bar and wall mount allowed us to make better use of the floor space where the entertainment center once lived.
Our next project: upgrading the faux fireplace. Centrally located in our living room is a purely decorative multicolor stone fireplace. Not the worst eye sore, but definitely something we wanted to put a little elbow grease into. So, we headed to our local hardware store, stocked up on some paint and supplies to build our own shelves (coming soon!), and I was all set.
We chose a dark grey paint to cover the stone, because we knew it would look great with the floors we’ve picked out from my dad’s flooring business to span from the entry way and living room into the kitchen.
I let the grey paint dry overnight, and tackled the mantle, grout and the interior of the fireplace the next day. For this, I chose a simple, lightly grey-tinted white paint, and voila — a refreshed fireplace!
Next on our list: building shelves on either side of the fireplace to give us extra storage with some style!
Out with the old, in with the new.
My friend recently purchased a new Mac. It’s sleek and fast and reminds me of everything I love about ever-changing technology. But when he told me his computer didn’t come with a CD drive, I was shocked. So you can’t make mix CDs for road trips?! Naturally, he responded, “Do people still make those?” I definitely still make them, but I understood his point.
Technology is ever-changing. I can’t say that I necessarily miss floppy discs or the Walkman, but today, I fell in love with two technological antiques.
I went to the EN Miller Antique Mall, a four-story treasure-filled building by the railroad tracks in Verona. After only 10 minutes, I stumbled upon an old Polaroid Land 95 camera. This model was the first commercially distributed in the US, sold to the public beginning in 1948. Over 60 years later, I found one in pristine condition.
My next find of the day was a Hermes 3000 typewriter. Paillard, the company that created the Hermes, originally manufactured music boxes in the early 19th century. Their first typewriters were launched in 1933, and the 3000 was made available to the public in 1958. Many typewriter aficionados consider this a dream machine, coming in mint or ivory colors. I had to agree.
It is our appreciation for old technologies that makes the latest and greatest toys of today so exciting. So today, we changed the old adage. In with the old, in with the new.