Kitchen Phase 2: Mission Accomplished!

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Our kitchen has come such a long way since we bought our house 6 months ago! It went from looking very 1970’s to sleek, beautiful, and fun. We got our appliances yesterday, so I wanted to show you the way everything looks, because this is the look that will stay for a very long time (until we tackle phase 3, which is knocking down a wall, having an island built, and having a mosaic backsplash put in).

As it stands, even without phase 3, the kitchen is officially fully updated!

Phase 1 involved a large amount of paint and a gargantuan amount of elbow grease, but it was also cheap! Yesterday, appliances went in…and though I can’t call that a “cheap” update, the price we paid for them was outstanding! When you see our kitchen photos from move-in day and from yesterday, you’ll be amazed at the transformation.

I talk often about “good bones” with a house, and I’ve said it numerous times about our kitchen. The layout was workable. There was an eat-in area. The 1995 oak cabinets were solid wood and in good enough shape to keep. They had Granite Transformations put in the counters, and the color was close enough to what we wanted that we decided to keep it. The beadboard on the walls was a plus, just ugly and unpainted. We had a good amount to “work with” and make better. Could we have ripped out the bulkhead, counters, backsplash, floor, beadboard, cabinets, etc? Sure! But I didn’t want to literally sink money into a major renovation. It works wonders for some, but the reality is that we’re both just too cheap and too DIY! ๐Ÿ˜‰

I must say, my favorite “fix” was taking a shiny, oddly-textured early 90’s backsplash and painting it. It was shiny, white, oddly-textured linoleum and some tiles had weird beige bundles of flowers and wheat on them. I had the idea to try bonding primer and paint, and now the once-ugly backsplash matches our beautiful walls. It was a free update because we used the paint we had on hand, and I couldn’t be more pleased. If you don’t want to spend between $500-2000 (depending on your choices) for a new backsplash, consider this easy option.

I’ll walk you through the transformation of our kitchen from the time we first moved in up through today:

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See? Good bones indeed, but in need of updates.

Here’s the result after we got our paint on and rid ourselves of the headache-inducing screaming yellow:

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The walls looked a million times nicer with the blue-grey color, but that beadboard looked even worse. The solution?

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SO. MUCH. BETTER.

Then we decided to paint our oak cabinets white:

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Really brightened things up, didn’t it?!

Onto appliances…our dishwasher and fridge were from ’91 and the dishwasher and microwave from 2000 were both not working well. The fridge was shiny black, chrome, and had cream sides. 1 fridge, 3 colors. It drove me so crazy that we painted the sides with chalkboard paint to liven it up to be something I could live with until we could replace all the appliances at once:

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I highly suggest that update!

As far as appliances go, let me preface it all by reminding you that I’m cheap. My husband is also cheap. I may have caviar taste and like nice things, but I’m cheap! We couldn’t bring ourselves to buy appliances until Black Friday sales began popping up, as that tends to yield the best deals. I know people who spent 4 grand or more on appliances, and the thought made my heart palpitate. I came up with a budget of $2,000 for the fridge, dishwasher, over-range microwave, and gas range. The goal was good, basic appliances. We knew stainless steel was the look we were going for (sleek and industrial). Our original black-and-gray-and-white kitchen idea morphed into something with many pops of teal blue and something a lot more fun… with a punch of personality!

Home Depot had a “Pre-Black Friday” ad out and I saw exactly what I wanted at the price I wanted to pay. Furthermore, we got no-interest for 6 months (I like paying $500 a month with no interest way better than paying in cash all at once), free delivery, free haul-away, and installation for $2,000 and some tax. We went with Frigidaire. I did the best measurements I could and the fridge ended up being slightly too tall for our “built when fridges were smaller” cabinets, so hubby made a few small cuts and the crisis was averted.

Anyway, we’re more than pleased with the look. The fridge is so much bigger than the last one! Luckily for my parents, my dad was in the garage when their older-than-me spare fridge sparked a small electrical fire and died or “took a crap” in the eloquent and elegant words of my dad. Our chalk-board-sided black fridge goes to them as their new spare ๐Ÿ™‚

Once more with “before”:

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And now, our current kitchen:

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And of course, the fun and new eat-in-area highlighted in my last entry:

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The best part of it all is that all of these updates combined cost us just $2,500 between lots of paint, elbow grease, salvaging items for free, a Craigslisted marble-top table and chairs, re-purposing current items, and appliances. It really doesn’t even look like the same kitchen. I couldn’t be happier, honestly. “The Anonymous Kitchen” is my pet-peeve (the same one everyone has, with the dark cabinets, tile backsplash, neutral walls, beige granite, and stainless appliances), and we have one that nobody else does thanks to DIY skills, imagination, and a very small amount of money (as kitchens go). “The Anonymous Kitchen” might be gorgeous, but this one looks and feels like us! I’m a “warm” person…so this is the first cool-toned room I’ve ever had or done. I enjoy that the kitchen has so much personality and stands alone from the rest of our home without clashing from the “feel” of it, thanks to the personalized touched and unique items.

::Happy warm-fuzzies::

Until next time…

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Fresh, new, and (something) blue!

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FIRST, let me apologize for it being so freaking long since I last posted. I have been eating, sleeping, and breathing my new job! I wish I was able to post at the frequency I did over the summer, but the reality is that I have so little free time on my hands.

Either way, I can tell you that I am more excited about this entry than any of my others thus far. Truth be told, the idea happened kind of by accident! I mentioned my future kitchen plans in a previous entry. In this, I spoke of plans to take down a wall and have a custom island built with seating and storage and a granite or marble top. This would cost a number in the thousands. Then the new school year began, and even with a large increase in income, we saw how much rebuilding and prioritizing needed to be done before we could ever hope to do that renovation! We were planning to buy Jeff’s new car in the late fall, but have pushed those plans back to the spring. We decided a vacation back to Bermuda to celebrate a number of things (most of all, our 5th wedding anniversary) was high on our priority list, so that will happen in the summer of 2014. We are keeping our Black Friday timeline for our new stainless appliances (goodbye, 1990’s black appliances). The kitchen demo/reno/island fell back.

SO…we arrive at the point so many others do. The point of “It’ll happen at some point…later.”

I was looking at our beautiful kitchen table and stylish chairs one day when it hit me that they were about to not match a single thing in our kitchen anymore. As soon as those appliances come in, it would just look so wrong and mismatched. It was a hard realization because Jeff and I salvaged and refinished that table together before we moved into our first apartment. It was our first project together. We love it. It’s a part of our history! We spent countless hours doing it all by hand in my grandparents’ garage, and let me tell you…if you’ve never refinished a dining room table by sanding totally by hand, then don’t (if you enjoy having skin on the pads of your fingers, that is!)

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Anyway, the thought of it not being in our kitchen hurt. But I’m a realist above all else, and I knew it wouldn’t work. Luckily, my fantastic little brother is a PA who recently started his first job as an Endocrinologist. College is over, he’s got a real job now, and will be getting his own place in a few months. Aside from looking like twins, we also have similar styles and tastes. It makes me happy to know that it will find a new home with someone I love, who will appreciate it like I do. On an unrelated but “awww” kind of note, I also just bought him his first piece of original art for when he has a bachelor pad. Enough gushing…

So that left the question of what to put in the kitchen when new appliances come in. Many people leave things “as is” while waiting to renovate and are not people to make interim changes. I, however, am a HUGE fan of interim (and cheap) changes! Why not put a little elbow grease into making a space into something you like and can live with until you can afford the expensive reno?!

Anyone who knows me knows of my big, big love of carrara marble. If I had an unlimited budget and could build a kitchen from scratch, three guesses what my countertops would be:Image

I’m just sayin’, is there anything more beautiful and classic?

So, you can imagine my happiness when a kitchen table set with a carrara marble top popped up on Craigslist for the bargain price of $70. It had an off-white base and 4 distressed white chairs with wicker seats. ย I particularly loved the grain in this piece of marble. The cool grey would complement the new appliances and the cabinets we painted white (see my kitchen entry for details). Also, because it’s marble, I could use it to prep and serve food! It may seem a small thing, but that really comes in handy. Here’s the set we picked up:Image

How gorgeous is that marble?

Around the same time, I got the thought in my head that I wanted to add a fun pop of blue (likely Tiffany blue) to the kitchen in the form of a refinished dining chair. Problem was, finding a free or inexpensive set of 4 to go with the marble table was not in the cards! I wanted to keep the total for the eat-in area under $100, so that hinged on my being able to salvage a chair or chairs. I was not having luck until I spotted this on the side of the road by a neighbor’s home one day:

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The chair was solid mahogany, at least 50 years old, and sturdy. Hubby helped me do the minor needed repairs! I had Tiffany blue on the brain but when I saw this deeper, brighter teal, it was love at first sight!Image

Rustoleum’s “Seaside” in a gloss finish.

I gave the chair a good scuff and light sand and then got my spray on! As you can see, there was a lot of overspray, so I switched to a tarp. Here’s the chair without the seat pad:

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The next step was to choose a fabric to recover the seating pad. Jeff and I went to Joann’s and found a great pattern that picked up the teal and was 40% off. It’s a durable fabric made for outdoor cushions. We ended up using $6 worth of fabric and $6 plus change in paint, making this wonderful chair a mere $12 of fun!

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After the chair was finished, I began to look at and dislike the wicker seats on the kitchen chairs. They ended up removed, taken outside onto the tarp, and….

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(painted to match the chair). The top got 2 coats and the bottoms that you don’t see got 1. The paint covered well and evenly, and the result is wonderful:

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A while back, a table runner I adored at Anthropologie came onto clearance for $14. It’s a whimsical cotton twill runner in a blue book motif with fun titles on the books. I knew I’d eventually find the perfect use for it. It’s been folded away for a few months now. Re-purposing some accessories and a table runner later, and this fabulous eat-in area is ours!

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SO. MUCH. FUN.

On the wall, I had a distressed white wrought iron bird wreath from Pier 1. On yet another whim, I took it down and painted it to match the chairs, and it really pops now!

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There are no words adequate enough to describe how thrilled I am with our new eat-in nook! It’s fresh, fun, bright, cheery, and uniquely “us”.

Now for the customary cost breakdown:

Marble-top table and chairs from Craigslist: $70

Paint: $12

Sandpaper: $3

Fabric: $6

Re-purposed accessories, runner, and wreath that I already owned: Free!

Project total: $91

And just a reminder of how the other side of the kitchen currently looks after our fun knobs and painted cabinets:

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Bathroom Before & After

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When we got this house, we did NOT like the bathroom. It was…well, to use a friend’s favorite adjective…tragic. It was as if the Jersey shore exploded in our tiny bathroom. I’m talking beachy-keen wallpaper, and border with very large shells on it. Also included were a dated vanity with bad fixtures and a floor comprised of a sheet of white linoleum with grooved squares. If the wallpaper wasn’t awful enough, it was 4 layers deep with one layer of wallpaper tacked on top of another, from the 60’s up through now.

Now for the *lovely* photos…

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Not ideal.

With the shower being the exception, the bathroom ended up being a “gut”. ย The wallpaper over the years ruined the walls and could not be stripped without taking chunks of 1960’s drywall with it. We paid our contractor to re-drywall and paint the whole bathroom. We were not pleased, but felt it was better to have something done once and done right! We had mold/water resistant drywall put in to be safer. I was going to put a cool khaki color on the walls, but decided to use the very warm and brighter shade we used in the master.

We chose a white vanity by Allen & Roth with a matching medicine cabinet that is tall with a large mirror (not to mention a ton of storage). We picked out a brushed nickel light fixture with an interesting swirled design. We found a granite color that we love for the vanity top to complete the look. After choosing brushed nickel finishings for the faucet and toilet paper holder/towel rack, I found some great knobs for $2.95 each at Anthropologie. All else came from Lowe’s.

We just had the floor done with the porcelain tile that resembles wood, and our contractor made us a concrete/silestone room transition since a typical one wouldn’t fit (the room steps up from the hardwood in the hall). It looks like we laid driftwood in our bathroom, and the result is awesome! Neutral enough to keep indefinitely, even if we change out the decor colors in the future.

As for accessories, I fell in love with Croscill’s “mosaic leaves” collection, and got it all at Bed, Bath & Beyond with their 20% off coupons.

The result after the remodel is a bathroom that is warm, bright, fun, and really cheerful. It may be small, but it’s gorgeous and we enjoy it!

Here are the after photos:

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So. Much. Better.

This was not a “cheap” project, really. But the end result still cost a lot less than many people I know have spent on their bathrooms. The breakdown is:

New drywall, framing out the door and the windows, new baseboards, new paint: $1500

New vanity, granite top, medicine cabinet, and light fixture: $644 (yep, that’s the exact amount).

New brushed nickel fixtures and finishes: $120

New knobs from Anthropologie: $15

New 6 panel door to replace the ugly and creepy slat door: $25

Bathroom accessories (including outlet covers, decal, painting, and wall art): $150.

Grand total: $2,300 rounded up.

Trash to Treasure: Rocking Chair

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It’s been about a week since I’ve updated the blog. Please excuse my lack of attention! Life has been extremely busy, and I’ve been celebrating a fantastic (and long-awaited) new job offer!

A week and a half ago, my husband was on his way home from work and took a shortcut through a nearby neighborhood. Someone had put this out to the curb with the trash:

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An old but nicely detailed hickory rocking chair. It needed tightening and some new screws, which hubby so kindly did for me!

I loved it immediately and knew I wanted to make it over and put it in my guest room/future nursery. I have reading chairs all over the house and thought this room needed one as well.

I usually always choose to refinish wood and almost never paint it! I am a wood and furniture junkie and think the grain and quality of wood comprises much of the beauty of a piece. My exception to the rule is kitchen cabinets, because I love a light and bright kitchen!

As soon as I looked at the rocker, I thought “WHITE!”. It just needed to be white, period. I got started immediately. I painted on a coat of my trusty bonding primer after rubbing the chair down with mineral spirits on a clean rag. I then used up some white trim paint that we had left but was unhappy with the coverage, which was uneven around the fine details. I then switched to Rustoleum’s spray paint/primer:

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The rocker was old and worn in some spots, so it did not take the paint completely evenly (and I strive for perfection), but all in all, I was pleased with the results. It got two good coats with a 3rd and final spray in some spots.

Next up was choosing a chair cover. I searched first at Pier 1, one of my absolute favorite home stores. I didn’t see anything I loved for a price I wanted to pay (I’m cheap). I then switched my search to Pottery Barn, another favorite. I got lucky when looking for clearance chair cushions. This color, the blue and white “Maia” pattern, was what I had decided on originally:Image

However, I then came across the Tiffany-blue colored “Alessandra” pattern and fell in love. It was exactly what I was looking for, and even better…less than half-price with free shipping to boot! I bought the largest size cushion because the rocker is pretty large and I wanted the whole seat covered. Let me tell you…it just BARELY fits on. It does, but any bigger and it’d have been too large. Note that if you shop Pottery Barn and find something you love on clearance, you cannot return the item.

Here are the results. Not bad for a side of the road find, right?!

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And, of course, here are some photos of the chair in its “home”…the guest room (click to enlarge them):

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The total cost of this project was a mere $20!

Next time you see something with real potential on the side of the road, consider taking it home and turning someone’s trash into your treasure! It’s inexpensive, easy, and you end up with a beautiful item for your home!

Cha-cha-cha-chalkboard!

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Remember in a previous entry, I complained about my kitchen appliances? The fridge was the worst offender and the UGLIEST thing ever in life. Black, shiny, non-magnetic front, chrome accents, creme colored sides. It was a sad, sad machine. Also, it should be noted that it was made in 1991, when I was SIX YEARS OLD! ย Ugh. However, we are not currently at liberty to fork over the money for a kitchen full of stainless appliances, and I have a “thing” about appliances not matching. So when we do one, we’ll do all.

My lovely friend Kait suggested chalkboard paint one day. I looked into it, thought it was the coolest idea, and we decided to give it a “go”. Even if we royally screwed it up, it certainly couldn’t look worse than it already did! We had a lot of paint supplies left over from previous projects and plenty of leftover bonding primer, so literally all we needed was a $10 quart of chalkboard paint (which was enough for our fridge).

Here was what we were working with beforehand:

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::shudders::

For the record, you can paint virtually anything with this chalkboard paint…walls, cabinets, the glass on photo-frames, mirrors, etc.

We did prep the sides of the fridge to ensure the best possible adhesion of the paint. We rubbed it down with mineral spirits and gave it a scuff-sand. We then painted it with bonding primer. We found that paint rollers were more than up to the job, and only needed the brushed for fine details and some edges.

Here is what we had after the bonding primer went on:Image

Already better than creme!

Here is the product to buy (Rust-Oleum makes it):

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A helpful tip: MIX, MIX, MIX! I had to stir the paint for a good five to seven minutes to properly mix and blend it. You want to make sure it’s as even and stirred as possible so that it works the way it should.

Here’s the so-much-better end result before adding artwork:

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You give the paint three days to dry, then “condition” it by rubbing chalk dust (the side of a piece of chalk) over the surface before drawing for the first time, and then rubbing with a paper towel. This makes the paint easier to wipe clean in the future. After we conditioned it, my beautiful mother-in-law who is up visiting from Florida went to town with the colored chalk, to this result:

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The cupcake on the fridge was drawn by my mom ๐Ÿ™‚

Hubby did this:

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My mother-in-law made me this fabulous pink chalk basket with a container, magnets, and pipecleaners:Image

All in all, a fast, easy, cheap, and FUN project! I’d recommend this to anyone. The product is great and so was the end-result. I no longer hate my fridge and therefore don’t complain about it being an eyesore everyday (which Jeff is glad about). A win-win situation.

Dining Room Decor

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Today I want to switch gears a little, from renovations to decor. I want to focus in on the dining room! Maybe you’ve got a formal dining room, perhaps you’ve got just an eat-in-kitchen. Either way, I hope you glean some ideas from this entry that will help you set it up with style.

Let me first say that I didn’t really want the “typical” dining room that is used once or twice a year. I wanted the room to be a showpiece, but one that could be used at any time, one that felt inviting and did not put out the “Do not touch anything in this fancy room” vibe. I certainly enjoy using my china for tea services and even for just my morning coffee. I’m continually saying “Life is short, use the china!” to the amusement of family and friends.

It would be easier to begin by showing you the dining room as it was when we toured our house so you know what we were working with:

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So…yeah…

A 90’s-fab chandelier, decor not to our taste, carpet. AGAIN, though, great “bones”!

If you look back a few entries, you will see that we refinished our home’s original hardwood floors, so I had that to work with when decorating.

The most important thing when setting up a formal dining room is absolutely selecting the furniture, which comes in just about every color, every wood type, every style, every budget. If you do not have a family set, your options are to buy new or buy used. You can go for any kind of look you want…modern, traditional, antique, whimsical. I’m a girl who knows what she wants, so I have always wanted a mahogany set in the formal Queen Anne style. My parents have a stunning cherry Thomasville dining room suite that is Queen Anne style, and I have admired it since the day they got it.

As you can guess, my choice does not come cheap…in fact, it’s one of the most expensive types on the market. I don’t do particleboard and every wood surface in my home is solid. I did not want to plunk $5,000-$10,000 down for a brand new set. My favorite solution? Buy used!

I scoured Craigslist (more on that at a later date), and a family in a wealthy neighborhood was moving. I found my dream set there, for the bargain price of $1,000, which included the table with 2 leaves, 6 chairs (2 captain’s chairs, 4 armchairs), a hutch, and a curio. The maker is Bassett, which is quality. Definitely see if you can find a maker’s mark if you are buying used.

Next step? Getting rid of that awful chandelier! We found exactly what we were looking for at Lowe’s. For fixtures, we gravitate to oil-rubbed bronze, but the bottom line is to buy what you love. $100 bought us our nice, new one.

If you’ve got a hardwood floor, you should absolutely buy an area rug for under your table. It adds style and protects the flooring. I do not like room-size rugs, but that is a personal preference. I like to see my hardwood. I chose just a 5 x 7 area rug to go under the table. My dining room is open to my formal living room, so I used the same rug in that room to, to create the flow and feel of a unified space. The rugs were a reasonable $75 each.

Once you have a light fixture, rug (if needed) and furniture picked out, it’s time to accessorize (the most fun part).

I like formal, but I do not like stuffy!!! I wanted to add some whimsical elements to the room. I am a big fan of the tablescape. Settting up a great table gives your room polish and personality. You can change them with the seasons, which I often enjoy doing. I prefer a runner to a tablecloth, and found exactly what I was looking for in Lenox’s “chirp” pattern:

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It had the perfect amount of whimsy, the russet colors to tie in my seat cushions with the rug, birds (which I wanted), and the fun element of nature. I planned the rest of the table decor around it. I got it on sale for $25.

I knew I wanted to set 4 plates out, so I found great bronze wicker chargers and blue plates with a leaf design at Macy’s. They look great together, the blue “pops” and ties into the blue accents on the rug and in the runner. I paid $40 for all 4 chargers and all 4 plates, which was a great deal.

As for accents, I found a GREAT collection that Rachel Bilson (an adorable actress that I love) designed for Macy’s that is peacock-themed. The name of her awesome line is Edie Rose. I bought her peacock box, napkin holder, potholders, and kitchen towels. She also has a salt-and-pepper shaker set that looks like 2 robin’s eggs in a white nest. Each piece was on sale at Macy’s when I bought them. Here are some photos of this collection:ImageImageImage

Pretty!

I already owned a bronze set of bird tealight holders from a store called Ten Thousand Villages, which went perfectly with everything else.

Now, it was time to select a centerpiece. Giving your dining table a great centerpiece is going to top off the room. It serves as an accent and pulls everything together. I found a fabulous bright silver candelabra at my local thrift store for $4. It was love at first sight! I knew I wanted to put in taper candles that were a unique color. I lucked out at Homegoods when I found a pack of 6 blue tapers that perfectly matched my plates! The candles cost me just $5.99. The combination of the silver with the blue is stunning, interesting, and different. I get so many compliments on my table setup.

No Italian girl’s dining room is complete without a wine-rack! I like my wine, and I wanted something really special. My favorite thrift store had a tall solid wood wine rack carved like a piano down the sides. It holds 16 bottles and has a top rack for goblets. It was so special that I had to have it! It was priced at $65, but I used up $25 of credit that I had there and used a $20 discount card. So I paid just $32 for it. It’s a fun touch of whimsy in the room!

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That corner of the room needed a tie-in with my table, so I found a mercury glass lidded tumbler from Pottery Barn that looks great on top (which you will see in the full photos of the room). The mercury glass matched up with my silver candelabra perfectly.

I kept wall decor kind of simple, with a beautiful, colorful Leonid Afremov painting on the big wall with a set of mosaic leaf sconces framing the hutch. The sconces are from Bed, Bath, and Beyond, and I love them so much that I bought 3 sets for my house. $8 per set after a coupon!

For china, I have a set of gorgeous Limoges china from France. The pattern is lovely, with a blue and gold design. My aunt gave it to my mother, who gave it to me. I still need to have it insured. My mother has our family china made in the 1890’s in Czechoslovakia. I put my many little mementos in my curio cabinet, and I love how complete having china and treasures makes a dining room feel. Shoutout to my sister’s china too…she’s got 2 Lenox collections. She has the holly motif holiday set that I adore, and a classy, modern white set for everyday.

One exceptionally fun element I found are the trellis brackets I got from Anthropologie to frame where the dining room is open to the formal living room. They are normally $50 a pair, but I got these on clearance for $15. I love the bronze color and the twig motif. They’re perfect!

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Oh, and that quote decal was $1 at my local Dollar Tree!

Now for some photos of my finished dining room:

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It all came together nicely, and all on a budget!

The art of compromise (NOT to be confused with “settling”)

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First, let me explain something about the home buying and house hunting process…

Unless you are one of the very lucky buyers with the budget to build a dream home or buy a 3-4,000 square foot McMansion, you will have to prioritize and compromise. Even buying a huge home, you will still find small things to compromise on. When you are working within a modest budget, there WILL be things that you do without or have to give up. It’s the law of life when it comes to real estate.

Jeff and I rented for 4.5 years. We did not want a starter home. I am not the person to buy a home and go through that process to sell it again in a few years. It’s not our thing. We waited to buy a home we could stay in.

What did “A home we can stay in” mean, exactly? It meant a desirable town and school system, a great layout, and enough space for each child to have their own room, as well as “hangout” space. It had to be able to sustain up to 2 kids comfortably. It had to be close to our family, and I sure as hell wasn’t moving out of Jersey.

2 items on our original “must haves” list were an attached garage and 2 full baths.

And guess what? We are 0 for 2 with this house. And it’s just fine.

We have a large, newer, and fabulous shed, an attic that is easy to access, and an indoor storage room the size of a sizable bedroom. So the original 1960’s sized 1-car garage was closed up and finished to extend the den to 25 feet. Due to that, the den now includes a fabulous fireplace. Guess which room we hang out in the most? That one! We like having the living space.

So how to tweak the house in the future? We’d like to add cement and extend the driveway on a curve up the side of the house for more parking/car workspace, and possibly add a carport. We are a corner lot and have lots of space in the front to work with.

By the time you get your car in these older 1-car garages, you don’t really have room to get around anyway.

The bathroom situation is different. We’ve got 1.5, and they are small. My sister’s 1963 split has a large main bathroom, which is nice. But we do not have large bathrooms.

And hey…it’s fine. We’ve got 2 toilets in the house at least. And when we have kids who start growing up, we can find space in the house to create another. We could do something with giving up 1 of 2 master closets and convert by borrowing some space into the room, which is a good size. OR, we (like many families throughout history) make do. Kids shower at night and the parents in the morning, or vice versa. Whatever.

This is not about “settling” for less. It’s about prioritizing.

Also, when both my husband and I are both salaried teachers, this home will account for a measly 20% of our income! This means we can renovate as we’d like, buy a new car, save for retirement, take vacations, and enjoy the good life. We will never be slaves to our home.

We live in an amazing small NJ town with extremely desirable schools. Before the bubble burst, our home would have cost 250k. We got it for 195k, but 5k of that was closing fees that were rolled in. So the home itself cost 190k. Reminder that this is NJ! Also, I’ll note that when we bought a few months ago, we locked in a 3.25 interest rate!!!

So the cons:

*No attached garage.

*1.5 rather 2 full baths, and no bath in the master (which, though desirable, is not a neccessity. This was not done in the 60’s).

Now for the pros:

*Nice-sized kitchen that has an eat-in area.

*Neighborhood playground around the corner.

*Beautiful formal dining room that is open to the formal living room.

*Half bath downstairs where the entertainment space is located (nobody needs to go upstairs to use one).

*Large den.

*Beautiful fireplace of white brick and silestone. It’s gas but can be converted back to wood-burning if we ever wanted that.

*Plenty of possible play space for kids

*2,000 square feet, a rarity in this area on our budget

*A large indoor storage room.

*An amount of closet space that is almost shocking for this time period. The closets are big and they are deep!

*3 larger bedrooms. This home model came in a 4 bedroom model, which our good friends across the street have. Which means that our 18 foot master would be sliced in half! We love that we have 3 big bedrooms and that our children will never be cramped (they will appreciate their closets, too)

*An attic that is actually accessible!

*Hardwood floors throughout (nice, original oak).

*Heat and AC that are 2 years old.

*Newer hot water heater.

*Newer siding and roof, about 5 or so years old.

All life is a compromise. The important thing was that we missed only 2 items on our dream list!

Don’t be a financial moron….BUY WHAT YOU CAN AFFORD! Do not overextend. We bought based on what we bring in now knowing that our income will shoot up within a couple years. You do not buy based on the future, because the future can not pay the bills now! Live below your means, and trust me…when you can afford your home, you love it more.

So don’t be afraid to make concessions ๐Ÿ˜‰

*Quality, expensive shed in the back.

*New white PVC privacy fence

*Great laundry room/mud room.