Category: I’m Working On It

Bathroom progress: storage!

For me, any day that I don’t destroy my marriage is a good day. Am I right?!! Let’s hear it for not destroying our marriages. So that’s why a DIY project that Ben and I did recently made me really, really happy. We assembled a storage unit together. And didn’t kill each other in the process.

Does anyone else have stories of furniture assembly that made you want to (a) bang your head against the wall, (b) bang your spouse against the wall, or (c) kill your spouse, tie yourself to the despised piece of furniture, and set it on fire? Yes, those are some violent images. Parental guidance advised. But really. There was this one day a few years ago that I’m pretty sure was the worst day out of my almost four years of married life, and that was the day Ben and I attempted to put a piece-of-garbage $50 Wal-Mart bookshelf together.

Note to self: Never buy $50 Wal-Mart bookshelves, and never EVER attempt to assemble them. If one of the gory scenes described above does not occur, someone will be Googling “cost for a divorce” before the end of the assembly process. In short, WORST IDEA EVER. DON’T DO IT.

After all of that, you’d be really surprised that a couple months ago I slapped down 100 dollahs for a some-assembly-required Target armoire. I was really nervous about the assembly process, but ya see, I really needed that armoire. You might remember tales of my sad, sad bathroom from this post …. and the attempts to make it a humanly habitable space from this one. It definitely has gotten a lot better since its ivy days, but there was still a major issue of bathroom storage. Or rather, LACK THEREOF. Since there was absolutely no storage built into the bathroom, I had tried to improvise with baskets and stuff. When we moved in there was a pretty shabby tall shelf thing which we used, but it didn’t provide any way to get things out of sight, had odd dimensions, and was extremely hard to clean. So what we had was this permanently grimy shelf that proudly displayed our entire collection of soap, razors, hairspray …. et cetera. It was an ugly situation.


I had been looking for a long time for a storage solution that would fit in the tiny space. As usual, Target to the rescue!


We spent a couple of hours on a Saturday afternoon putting it together. It didn’t take very long. And it was like a MIRACLE! The shelves were strong and sturdy and didn’t crumble if you touched them. It wasn’t ALL CROOKEDY, EVERYWHERE. The screws were the right sizes, and there were enough of them, and the back of the bookshelf wasn’t made out of #!@$ PAPER!!!


A couple of days later, I went to Target and found baskets to fit the shelves. Now all of our stuff is hidden away, but still easily accessible. There’s even a drawer that holds all of our medicines/medical supplies — what a concept! It really is amazing. I know I have a typically emotional apartment-dweller’s approach to talking about storage, but bear with me.

I’m still working on filling in the empty spaces on the shelves — I’m thinking maybe some vintage bowls or vases which I’ll use to store nail polish and makeup brushes, or some natural elements like a few birch bark candles grouped together. I’ve since added a big piece of coral to the top, too.


So there you have it. Yay for a brighter, cleaner, neater-looking bathroom! And for Target instead of Wal-mart. And for intact marriages. Hurray! Everyone is happy! Nobody dies! If only everything were this simple. :)


Botanical Bathroom

I haven’t done anything with my bathroom for a while. Ever since I ripped out the horrible ivy wallpaper border — which granted was a big improvement — it’s pretty much remained a plain, dead, white. And beige. And gray. And cream. (The people who built this place didn’t take a LOT of pains to match furnishings.)

I really had no idea what I was going to do about bringing some color or SOMETHING in there. Until the other day when I was in Target and I saw this rug.

In an out-of-character move, I immediately bought it on impulse. I knew it would be perfect. It combined a deep teal with brown and cream and a cool geometric pattern. I like that the rug has shades of brown in it, because it means I can keep the perfectly good set of towels I have — which are brown and beige. A lot of bathroom color schemes I was looking at used gray as the neutral, and I hated to get rid of towels that are still very fluffy and in fine shape.

Also, I like the geometric pattern. I am a pretty pattern-phobic person, and I’ve been wanting to try to introduce more print and pattern into my home. The bathroom is a safe place to do that and a fun place to experiment with something new. Plus, for a $20-or-so rug, I wasn’t exactly making some huge investment!

After bringing the rug home and living with it for a few days, I liked it even more. So I went back to Target to see if I could find anything else that would work with the rug colors, and I found this shower curtain, part of a line called Threshold.

Now THAT’s a lot more pattern than I would normally pick. But I love the fern print and the colors, and man, it makes my boring bathroom WAY more interesting. And again, yay for inexpensive things!

After finding these two pieces I started to envision an awesome botanical bathroom with teal, brown, a little gold, and all kinds of nature-inspired accents….

This mood board has the main pieces in the room: rug, curtain, etc. I’m going to track down either this Target storage cabinet or one like it, and paint the back inside the unit teal, like the inspiration pic from Young House Love. I’d also like to do the faux bois wastebasket DIY from Apartment Therapy.

And then the smaller decoratey pieces…


  • Rug: Target
  • Shower curtain: Target
  • Bathroom storage cabinet: Target
  • Wood frames: Target
  • Gold frame: Amazon
  • Gold mercury glass candleholder: Luna Bazaar
  • Branches:
  • Porcelain acorns: Spark Living
  • Botanical print: Miles Of Light on Etsy (I already bought this and I LOVE IT!!)
  • Ocean print: mylittlepixels on Etsy


  • Painted bookshelf: Young House Love
  • Branches in vase: Domestic Peacock
  • Faux bois wastebasket DIY: Apartment Therapy

The quest for green lamps

Thanks everyone for your kind remarks on my previous post about re-doing my living room.

In that post I did forget to mention anything about lighting. I think lighting is one of the most important things in any room. In fact, as the great Paul Revere said in Longfellow’s famous poem, “One if by land, two if by sea, and I on the living room couch will be.”

What, he didn’t say it quite like that? Well …………… that’s not important. CLEARLY Longfellow’s words hold great meaning for this discussion of lamps in my living room.

Anyway, I think lighting is important. At this point designers would start talking about “having a lighting plan” for your room, including “three levels of lighting,” and things like that. WHATEVER. All I care about in a room is that there are enough lamps, etc so that (1) you can read without eyestrain and (2) you never ever EVER have to turn on the overhead light in a room, ever, ever. EVER.

I hate overhead lights. Hate them.

So when we first moved into our apartment, and the lighting situation did not provide for the two necessities stated above, I immediately bought two cheap floor lamps from Target just until we figured out what we wanted and found something better.

Needless to say, they’re still there. *sigh* But hopefully on their way out soon. Once I locate end tables on Craigslist or at a thrift store, I’ll be replacing them with table lamps.

Since I’m going to be doing kind of a blue and green color scheme (cobalt/indigo and kelly/bright green) for the room, I’ve been lusting after various green lamps that I’ve located on the internets. Sadly, I can’t afford any of them. WHY ARE LAMPS SO EXPENSIVE? I mean …… two or three hundred dollars each is kind of ridiculous.


Both from Lamps Plus

The only one that might be worth the money this Jonathan Adler Capri lamp. It is so beautiful, I would sell a kidney for this lamp. Except I need two lamps. And that would cost me both of my kidneys. So …. no.

via Kristen Rivoli interior design

At least after gazing at all these pictures I know what I want. I like lamps that have a graceful, rounded shape — they’re sometimes called “gourd” lamps or “vessel” lamps. Glass is great, opaque is better. The hardest thing is finding BRIGHT green lamps.

This one from JC Penney is more affordable, but I don’t like the dull green. :(

I saw a tutorial online in which someone got a pair of inexpensive clear glass lamp bases and painted the insides of the bases with bright paint. It’s a great idea. I don’t really do that much DIY (not enough space or time), but if I can find some inexpensive lamps at a thrift store I may give one of the many lamp DIY ideas on the internet a try.

Speaking of which, here are a few that look interesting.

Here’s an awesome-looking tutorial using the painting-inside-glass technique to make DIY mercury glass lamps.

Spray-painting lamp bases.

How to update a lamp base and shade with spray paint.

Of course, it would be so much easier to drop $400-500 on a pair of bright green lamps, plus another $60 (at least) on shades. Ah, the lives of the rich and famous!

BHG via Pure Style Home

So, the quest continues. I’ll let you know how it turns out. ;-)

Evolution of a living room

Because of my commitment to stay within our (very small) decorating budget, progress on decorating our apartment consistently moves at a snail’s pace.

But even a snail will get there eventually … and almost 3-1/2 years after moving into our apartment, my living room is finally starting to look like I actually want it to.

Sadly, I don’t have a picture of what it looked like when we moved in. Please believe me that it was bad. The living room came furnished with a green-and-red plaid, uncomfortable couch; an antiquey wooden rocking chair; two small side tables in poor condition; a tiny old TV; and three lamps of all different sizes. Oh, and a scrap of lace where a curtain should have been on the one window.

As soon as possible I got rid of these furnishings and replaced them with other ones – not necessarily things I liked, but things that were free. A World Market couch that looked OK at first; a small loveseat with great bones but in need of reupholstery; neutral curtains because I couldn’t commit to a color.

We aren’t allowed to paint, so with blank white walls, gray/beige carpet, and neutral furnishings, it was SO boring.

Then the living room got ignored for a while as I worked on getting our bedroom in decent shape. In the meantime the poor quality of the World Market couch became evident. At seven feet long and L-shaped, it didn’t fit the tiny room, and left no room for much of anything else. And it was UGLY.

I did some serious thinking about the room. In our small apartment, we spend almost all of our time (except sleeping) in this room. But the room did not work for us. It was not comfortable, it was not functional, and it was not fun to spend time there.

So, because I am a list-maker, I made a list of what I wanted the room to do and be.

  • It had to have seating for a few people to sit and have a conversation.
  • It had to include  room for my books. Our one bookshelf was relegated to the spare bedroom (a.k.a. junk room) but I wanted them in the main living area because I LOVE BOOKS and they make me happy.
  • It had to have places to set a drink or book down (end tables).
  • It had to have an ottoman instead of a coffee table. Ben and I like to put our feet up.
  • It had to have storage. Because this room does everything.
  • It had to be cozy.
  • It had to be colorful even though the biggest pieces in the room (couches) were neutral.
  • I also wanted to have a big map hanging in the room – because I happen to love maps – and a collection of vintage family photos.
  • And it had to have a TV. I grew up without a TV, so I would be OK without having one, but Ben loves watching sports and it’s his house, too. Plus we like to watch a TV show (hello, Parks and Recreation!!!) or movie from time to time, and where else were we going to watch that if not from the couch?

So I came up with this plan of action:

  • Replace the huge, ugly couch with a smaller loveseat.
  • Buy a flatscreen TV and mount it on the wall.
  • Using this now freed-up space, bring in a nice-quality bookshelf to house books…
  •  And some end tables for additional storage and places to set things down.
  • Replace the center table (too small and awkward!) with a storage ottoman.
  • Find a beautiful map and get it framed and hung over the couch.
  • Add colorful pillows, throws, rug, etc.

Slowly, over the spring and summer, things got done. In the spring, in-laws gave us a beautiful all-wood IKEA bookshelf as an anniversary gift, for which I will be eternally grateful. I searched endlessly for a new loveseat on Craiglist, not wanting to spend $600+ on a new one, and after a few disappointments I finally located one in August, in great shape, about 6’ long, and only $180. Also in August, we bought a 39” flatscreen LCD TV on sale for under $300.

Oh, about that Craigslist loveseat. Since we don’t have a truck, this is how we got it home (it was a rainy day):

Here’s the room with the Craiglist loveseat, the old loveseat (still badly in need of reupholstery, but I’m keeping it because I love it), and the flatscreen TV before we mounted it on the wall.

You’ll notice I brought in a gray ottoman from my bedroom to see how it worked in the room – and I ended up loving how the smaller (about 20” diameter) round ottoman broke up all the boxy rectangular shapes in the room and was easy to get around. Huzzah for no more stubbed toes!

Then my very kind father-in-law helped Ben mount the TV on the wall, an arduous task…

…and I moved my books and bookshelf into the room, while a multitude of angels sang “glory in the highest.” OK, not really, but adding the books made a HUGE difference in the room – they added so much color and coziness. I instantly felt so much happier being in there.

Of course, we had a messy wire situation, which was easily fixed after a quick trip to Home Depot.

Ben did a fantastic job getting those wires covered up, and then he also hung my framed map on the opposite wall (which you last heard about in this post).

And that left us with the living room as it is now. Not finished yet, but much closer.

Here’s that to-do list again…

  • Replace the huge, ugly couch with a smaller loveseat. DONE!
  • Buy a flatscreen TV and mount it on the wall. DONE! 
  • Using this now freed-up space, bring in a nice-quality bookshelf to house books… DONE!
  •  And some end tables for additional storage and places to set things down. in progress
  • Replace the center table (too small and awkward!) with a storage ottoman. in progress
  • Find a beautiful map and get it framed and hung over the couch. DONE!
  • Add colorful pillows, throws, rug, etc. to do

The biggest pieces are now in place – the loveseats, TV and bookshelf. What’s left is the smaller pieces. I’m working on getting a brown leather ottoman so I can put the gray one back in my bedroom where it belongs. I’m also searching for the perfect end tables – I’m so eager for the day when I can chop up those useless too-small, too-short side tables for firewood. :-) Oh, you think I’m kidding, huh?…

The ottoman and end tables are top priority for now since they’re an important part of the room being fully functional, but once those are done the last thing will be adding colorful textiles like pillows and possibly a rug. I’m not too worried about those for now, but they will add the finishing touch.

It’s been really exciting in the past couple of months to see the room FINALLY come together after years where I really hated it, honestly. It’s still a teeny, tiny room with various unattractive aspects (tile ceiling, sad carpet, not much sunlight) that I can’t do much about, but I’m happy with the changes I have been able to make. Already the room works so much better for us, and we feel a lot better about spending time there.

I’ll post more about this room as progress continues to be made on it!

The destroyin’ of the green

Happy Monday! How was your weekend? Mine was lovely. It included a lot of hanging out with friends, a midnight bike ride, and not one but TWO bookstore dates. (For the uninitiated, a bookstore date is when you take your friend/significant other and go to a bookstore and sit cozily for a long time — until closing, if possible — drinking coffee and reading and occasionally looking up from your book or magazine to smile and/or talk with your friend/significant other.) I love them. Bookstore dates are where it’s at for me and my nerdy lover. haha.

The big accomplishment of my weekend was finally painting over the bathroom ceiling and thus obliterating all traces of that bright, ugly green from my bathroom now and forever. Amen. This happened on Saturday. And so, on St. Patrick’s Day, green was forever abolished from my house. I find the irony in this quite delightful.

If you’ve been following this project, you’ll recognize the before picture. If not, you can catch up: read this, then this, then this.

Dang, that hurts my eyes! Here’s the after:

Big improvement, yes?

Painting over the ceiling stripes was the part I was dreading the most. I mean, ripping out the wallpaper was pretty easy and very satisfying. But painting those VERY green, VERY skinny little stripes on the ceiling seemed like it would be terribly painstaking and back-aching and head-aching. And whatever else you can think of that rhymes with “aching.” So I was pleasantly surprised to find out it really wasn’t all that bad.

My equipment included KILZ premium primer (for ultimate stainblockingness), a one-inch brush, and some rags.

Is it just me, or does saying the word KILZ make you think of this scene from Napoleon Dynamite?

“IT KILLS!!! IT KILLS!!!” hahahaha….. I love Napoleon so much.

So yeah, I’m probably the only person who thinks of this when saying the word KILZ. You know, I’m OK with that.

The primer was awesome stuff — I was glad I got the Premium. Maybe the regular stuff would have worked too, but I guess I’ll never know. I did two coats to make sure all that green was covered up, because if you can’t tell, I NEVER WANT TO SEE IT EVER AGAIN. Once I get to the painting-the-bathroom step, it will get a final coat of regular white paint.

So the bathroom went from looking like this:

To looking like this:

I’m very happy with it! It’s really boring and white now, but I personally think boring and white is a big improvement over ugly and green. And it’s almost time to think about decorating it with stuff so it will be less boring and white.

Here’s a list of things that still need to happen in order to finish up this bathroom re-do:

  • Thoroughly scrub every surface in the bathroom, especially walls in preparation for painting
  • Scrub tile & grout with some kind of bleach cleaner to make them sparklayyyy
  • Repair small holes in walls with spackle
  • Give walls a coat of white paint
  • Install new hardware — towel bar, toilet paper dispenser, etc.
  • Spray paint metal storage shelf (it’s not in any of the pictures, but you’ll see it eventually)
  • Bring in some art, a new rug, etc. to spruce it up!

When it’s finished, it’s not going to be some awesome color or amazing design. It’s just not that kind of bathroom, and since it’s a rental I can’t change any of the big stuff that makes such a difference. But I will have taken it from being a complete eyesore to hopefully being a pretty nice little bathroom, and that’s good enough for now.

I hope to get it cleaned and painted this week, and we’ll move on to decorating from there!

Death to ivy

As promised, I have pictures to show how I (finally!) eradicated the ivy from my bathroom. I can’t believe I lived with it for this long, but I knew I’d get around to ripping it out one day and I’m so glad it’s gone! Once you see the pics, I think you’ll agree.

Apologies in advance for the mediocre photos. The bathroom is very small and has no natural light, so it certainly isn’t the prettiest thing to photograph. And of course I’m not particularly skilled at taking pictures either!

So this is what it looked like before. You will see both the ivy border and the carefully painted green stripes between the ceiling tiles, as I’ve described before.

It’s sort of impressive in its ugliness, isn’t it?

Earlier in the week I went to Home Depot and picked up some wallpaper removal stuff. I’ll take a picture of all the supplies later for reference. But for this stage I used just a few things: some wallpaper removal spray, a paper scraper thing (basically a razor blade attached to a plastic handle), and some rags (an old towel cut up). I also used some sandpaper but that comes in later.

For actually removing the wallpaper, I had NO CLUE how to do that, but my brother in a very hilarious comment on an earlier post of mine suggested I actually use a wallpaper removal product rather than some of the sketchy things people were suggesting on the internets. I guess using hairdryers, vinegar, and other such things is probably an attempt to avoid using  chemicals. But you know what? Chemicals work. :-)

I also didn’t know whether to get a wallpaper perforator thing, or scraper thing … or both. The guy at Home Depot told me the scraper would be enough. But he also couldn’t help me find primer to save my life. So I was like, “Um dude. Do you really know anything about this.” But still, I trusted him, because I am a naturally trusting person. And also, because I didn’t want to buy BOTH the scraper and the perforator. They were $8 each, and the project is small, and I’ll not be needing them again anytime soon, and there are a lot of things I’d rather spend $8 than a wallpaper perforator/scraper. Like more Burt’s Bees lip balm. I always need more of those (the pomegranate kind).

But anyway, those were my supplies — and they were really all I needed to make that awful ivy go FAR FAR AWAY. FOREVER.

Probably if I had actually bought the perforator in addition to the scraper, it would have gone faster. But like I said, this was a small project anyway and I don’t care if it took a bit longer than it had to. After playing around with it I got it down to a few steps:

1. Spray a section of wallpaper with the remover spray. Soak it good, baby!! I used one of my rags to catch any drips. Because the wallpaper was kinda glossy it would run right off. Let that soak in for a minute or two.

2. Start scraping. Sometimes the top, glossy, printed layer would peel right off, leaving a papery white layer underneath. Or sometimes it would come off in chunks. Whatever works to get that stuff off the wall!

3. Once you’ve peeled and scraped off everything you can, soak what’s left of the border with the remover spray again. This time, with much of the glossy top layer gone, the liquid should sink in better.

4. While it’s wet-ish, keep scraping until the rest of the border is gone. There will be wet, gloppy pieces of paper everywhere but I didn’t slow down to clean up – I just cleaned it all up once about halfway through and then again when it was all done.

5. Use the rag again to brush off any bits of wallpaper that have been loosened but aren’t falling off because they’re wet and sticky.

It took me part of the morning and most of the afternoon (although I did take a lot of breaks to text my sister), but finally I made it all the way around the perimeter of the bathroom until I only had a teeny tiny bit left…

And then it was all gone.

I can’t believe how much (relatively) cleaner and brighter the walls look, and the ceiling seems higher too without all that ivy crouched up there under the ceiling, sucking the life out of the room. Creepy stuff. Of course, the green ceiling stripes look worse than ever but they’re next on my hit list. Thank goodness.

I had to add one more step to finish up the wallpaper-removal phase of this project. This next picture is a close-up of the wall after all the wallpaper has been removed. It’s hard to see especially in a photo, but if you look VERY closely you can see the outline of the border still on the wall even though it’s been removed. It looks like a grayish shadow running horizontally along the wall in the center of the photo:

That, my friends, is a line which I believe is caused by the people who put in the border painting over the edge of it to try to help it blend into the wall. Maybe. Possibly. Probably. I don’t really know, because I can’t conceive of why anyone would put an ivy border up in the first place, not to mention then tackily slapping paint all along the edge. I don’t get it. But anyway, it’s kind of a gray color and I’m sure when I paint the walls white it will get covered up, but it was actually creating a kind of ridge you could feel if you ran your hand over it. So I went around the room and sanded that down until it felt smooth. Hopefully there will be no ridges in the wall when it’s done, and the paint will cover everything up.

You can also see in the above picture that apparently the walls used to be a goldy-yellow color. I’m SO glad that’s not in there anymore!

And THAT is the end of my first ever wallpaper removal project. Yay! The next step is definitely going to be the hardest and most time-consuming: painting over the green ceiling stripes. :-( I’m really not looking forward to that! I’ve been trying to think of ways to make it easier, but I think I just need to pick up some primer and get to work. Sigh. I thought about sanding it, but because it’s on the ceiling it’s a really awkward angle, and I’ve tried a little bit with very limited success. So we’ll see. All I know is, I’ll get that green off somehow. Hoping to get started on it this weekend. It will probably take a few coats, but I’ll keep you guys posted on my progress!

See you back here for the next installment …. in the meantime, have a great weekend!

In progress…

Hey everyone,

I’m not dead. I have just been having a very busy week.

Remember that bathroom re-do I was talking about last week? Well, it’s on. Like donkey kong. (If anyone knows what that means, please let me know.) I’ve been so busy with work all week that I haven’t been able to start until today, but the bathroom is currently a disaster and there are wallpaper particles EVERYWHERE. It’s a giant mess. Which is a good thing, since messes are usually an indicator that something is happening. Oorrrr that I’m really lazy and don’t pick up after myself. But in this case, fortunately, it is the former.

It’s already starting to look so different in there although I’ve only done one wall out of the four (but it’s one of the long ones!) — and the ceiling is still untouched. With the walls looking so much cleaner, the green-striped ceiling is looking worse than ever. I am growing to hate it more and more with every passing second and soon I will have accumulated so much rage against the green stripes that nothing will be able to protect them against my white-hot DIY fury.

It’s pretty exciting in here today, for sure. In order to not get high on wallpaper remover fumes I have all the windows wide open for optimal ventilation. Wellllll, it’s also March in Virginia Beach. It’s 80 degrees, everything is blooming, and in spite of my brand spankin’ new (and very expensive!!) Singulaire prescription my allergies are in full swing. So it’s either close the windows and possibly pass out from whatever-the-heck-is-in-wallpaper-remover, or open the windows and breathe in all that pollen and sneeze myself unconscious. Either way, I’ll be unconscious. Or at least that’s the way I imagine it happening…

But in reality, I’m sure I will be very much conscious through the whole process and able to fully appreciate the wonderful time afforded by wallpaper removal, holding one’s hands over one’s head for long periods of time while balancing on a rickety chair, and frequent violent sneezing. Yep. Good times.

I can’t wait to finish up with at least the first stage of this project and post pictures for you guys, so I guess I’d better get back to the awesomeness I just described to you.

See you on the other side.