Saturday, February 27, 2010


I hung a few new photos in our living room. These are lighthouse pictures that I took during our honeymoon.

I think they look nice in my Ikea Ribba trio frame.

I did some post editing on these (tutorial below), not much but I wanted the buildings to really stand out and so I made sure the background was totally white (technically overexposed since you can't see any cloud tones).

Here's the original:

I first removed most of the color.

Image > Adjustment > Desaturate

Then I added some high contrast.

Image > Adjustment > Brightness and Contrast (cranked both +38)

Lightened slightly and added warmth with a curves adjustment.

Image > Adjustment > Curves

I grabbed the middle of the curves line and dragged it upward and to the lefthand corner. This lightened the photo slightly and added some warm tones. I also straightened it slightly by using the Transform tool (cropping the edges).

Read more photo editing posts here

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Daily Murph: Dog days of winter

Murphy and I are both ready for spring.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The organized kitchen

I like to organize things. I'm pretty proud of the way our kitchen is shaping up. Also I'm linking this up to one my favorite blogs, Pure Style Home, as part of her "Pure Organization" project. Project No. 7 is "Declutter the Kitchen."

Once again, these are my rules for clutter:

  1. Analyze clutter. What are the problem areas?
  2. Create a system for each type of clutter. Everything needs a system.
  3. If you bring something into your house, it needs a home. A place. If it doesn't have a place, you need to make one or get rid of something else.
With that in mind, we took a look at all of our kitchen stuff. If you think about it, there's a lot of stuff in a kitchen that can build up and look cluttered. Appliances, tools, dishes, pots, pans, storage containers, food, cooking and baking supplies, spices, etc. Not to mention random other things like papers, mail, and so on. It was important to us that we had a place to toss everything for quick clean-up. Here's how we tackled it.

First, a quick before and after. Well, it's not a true before because this isn't our stuff. This is what the kitchen looked like when the previous owners lived here. I took this during the house inspection.

It's ok if you prefer the coziness of a more lived-in placed like this. But we prefer to have as little things on the counter as possible, more minamalist. It's easier to keep clean, easier to work, and easier to find things. Here's what the kitchen looks like now:

So where do we put all our junk? First, we used the storage we already had, the cabinets and drawers. We usually separate and organize our things by function. For example, here's the baking cabinet:

Here's the spice drawer:

Towels and pot holders:

Kitchen cleaning supplies (all over cleaning supplies live in the guest bedroom closet):

We have a deeper drawer for storage containers and the more shallow drawer above it is for lids.

Same with pots and lids:

First set of dishes (we have two full sets):


And so on. I won't post all of our drawers, but it's more of the same. Even so, we were short on some storage (as you can see, we don't like to cram our drawers full of things but prefer to keep them simple and organized). And so:

Storage solution No. 1 -- Textured boxes on top of the cabinets

I always read that experts say you should maximize your storage by looking up. In other words, use all of your vertical space. So that's what we did. We picked up 7 of these boxes with lids to put above our cabinets.

You wouldn't believe how much extra storage these things provide! Some of the things we store in them: Nalgene/water bottles, our infrequently used appliances (blender, toaster, mixer), unused lunch boxes, serving ware, and so on.

To find things quickly, I keep a list of what is in each box on the fridge. Like I said, this added a lot more storage for items we need to keep but don't use all that often. What about the stuff we do use a lot?

Storage solution No. 2 -- Pantry/buffet

When we got married, we registered at Target. We received many a gift card from this lovely store, and we decided to save them for something good after we bought our house. After scoping out our kitchen situation, we decided we couldn't think of a better piece of furniture to buy than a pantry-buffet unit to add more kitchen storage. We lucked out because Target had a nice one that not only matched our wood color, but also had the same glass doors as our existing cabinets. And since our house has an addition, there was a perfect wall spot to put it.

The top looks like this:

And the bottom like this:

We love our pantry-buffet and store a lot of things there. To all our friends reading, if you gave us a Target gift card, this is what you bought us! Thank you. :)

Dishes on top (the other set):

And canned and boxed food on the bottom:

Cookbooks and wine in the middle:

And this thing even has 3 junk drawers. THREE!

Oh yeah, you might be wondering what this mysterious box is on top:

We also received a set of silverware for a wedding gift, but we didn't need the wooden box it came with since we keep our silverware in a drawer. Rather than getting rid of it, we use it to store our tea. We are big tea drinkers.

Ok I'm almost done, but there's one more thing we use for staying organized in the kitchen.

Storage solution No. 3 -- Use the walls

Even though I love art and decorative items, we only use our kitchen walls for hanging functional things. Like this magnetic knife rack:

Or this bulletin board to round up all our loose bits of paper, like business cards, wedding invites, phone numbers, etc.

And this dry erase board that hands on the fridge. Can't live without it.

We store our mail, papers, and related items in our mail storage area (discussed here). You will notice that the boxes match the ones above our kitchen cabinets AND the smaller boxes in our pantry-buffet Cohesiveness is the name of the game.

And that's it! Whew.

Related articles:
2010 is the year of home organization, if you don't recall. Here's what we've got so far:
And please check out Pure Style Home: Pure Organization Project #7: Declutter the Kitchen for more posts by other bloggers about kitchen organization.

House tours for you (and me)

Hey, check this out. Danielle over at Transforming Homes recently hosted a "link party" where she asked other bloggers to share house tour or room photos. I think that's a fun idea, and I sent ours over (even though it's a work in progress). I am having fun touring the other blogs/houses. There are many great ideas and beautiful rooms. Very inspiring!

You can check it out here, if you'd like: Transforming Homes -- House tour party

And here's our ongoing progress. Dig it.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

How to: Decorate like West Elm on a budget

Fact: I have never been inside a West Elm store.

However I've spent an unusually large amount of time recently staring (and drooling) at their catalogs and website. I think I love this store. But my first-time-home-owner budget doesn't always love their prices. Never fear. I have some tips for achieving the West Elm look without breaking the bank.

1. Decorate with baskets.

Have you noticed how many West Elm scenes feature decorative storage baskets? The correct answer is yes. I especially like these dark "Kooboo" ones:

But $49 or $69 for a basket? I would have some 'splaining to do to Rob if I bought one of those. The thing that I appreciate most about this decorating trend is that baskets make an area look less cluttered and more clean. So in theory, any basket that is in nice shape would serve the same purpose. Luckily, there are many places to find cheap baskets. If you have a Home Goods in your area, I recommend checking them out first. Great selection and super cheap prices.

I found these similar ones for only $9.99 on Amazon:

Maize Round Woven Basket

or Maize Woven Oval Basket

There's also these lighter colored ones, only $10.99 for a set of 3: Household Essentials Woven-Rush Round Baskets with Lids.

Why pay $79 for these boxes with lids (from West Elm)...

... when you can try these ones from Ikea for only $9.99:

Where to shop for inexpensive baskets: Target, Home Goods, Michaels, Walmart, Amazon, TJ Maxx, Ikea.

2. Glossy white accent pieces

I also see a lot of glossy white vases, bowls, and general accent pieces in the West Elm photos. Very modern and chic.

But the prices range from $15-67. Even the low end seems high, to me. Check out the vase I bought for $1.97 at Walmart and spray painted with an inexpensive glossy white paint.



You can find cheap vases, jars, and bowls at Good Will, Ikea, and many local dollar stores. Or you can even spray paint things you have around your house, like cleaned out wine bottles, growlers, or old jars. Check out your local thrift stores for little statues, sculptural lamp bases, or plant pots. These things can all be spray painted.

Here's my Walmart vase, a wine bottle I spray painted, and a larger Ikea vase that I bought on clearance:

I don't display them this way in real life.

And while we're on the subject of spray painting, here's two real antlers (my sister found it in a field) that I cleaned up and painted for our mantel:

The DIY approach is fun, easy, and much more cost effective. (You can read my spray painting tips here.)

3. Gallery style frames

Seen here, here, and here:

Personally, I really like the look of gallery frames. These frames are $12 for the smallest 5x7 size and quickly rise in price from there, hitting the $50 mark for the larger sizes (16x20 and 18" square). The Norwegians in my home state of North Dakota would say "oofda" to that. So let's beat it.

Here's a 4x6 one for $4.95:

And the same style in 8x10 is only $7.75.

The art supply store Blick has a huge collection of affordable gallery frames, available in various woo colors, metal, or even very natural-looking bamboo material. Prices range from $8 to $20 for the sizes I listed above at West Elm.

And of course I can't ignore the excellent Ribba collection from Ikea. We have at least 8 or 9 of these around our house.

They are available in a few colors (black, white, medium brown, light maple wood tone) and a ton of different sizes. Prices range from $2.99 for the 5x7 and $14.99 for the 16x20. We have a 16x20 Ribba frame hanging above our fireplace, as seen in the mantel photo:

And if you like really big prints, there's a 28x40" size for $27.99. That's a steal for a frame that large.

Need something to put in your new gallery frames? Stay tuned for a future post on some DIY art ideas.

4. Pillows and throws with soft texture

Another thing I noticed in the West Elm catalog: They love to toss a softly textured throw or pillow into any scene.

Look - more baskets.

Look - more gallery frames.

I can dig it. I especially love a cozy blanket. But not in the $49-99 range. And $29-79 for a single pillow cover? That's nuts when you consider that you need several of each to get that nice, layered look. Not gonna happen.

That's why Ikea is once again your friend. The fleece-y Polarvide throw is only $3.49:

Or you can pick up a super soft, chenille-like Felicia throw (in a bunch of lovely colors) for only $9.99.

Rob and I have two of the super fuzzy and soft Ritva throws, only $7.99:

We love them so much that we plan to get more.

We also have the Ofelia and Stockholm throws from Ikea. They both sell for $29.99, which is usually more than we pay for throw blankest, but they are superb quality and a really nice addition to any room. And they're still a heck of a lot cheaper than the similar ones at West Elm (or Pottery Barn, for that matter).

Our guest bed - Comforter cover ($25) and Ofelia throw ($30) from Ikea, cream toss pillow ($10) and throw from Target.

Ikea also has a variety of pillows and pillow covers for under $10.

And then there's Target, one of my favs. They have a pretty nice selection of knit, chenille, and cotton throws and blankets for under $20. I like this plaid throw for $19.99:

Here's a trendy faux fur one for $20:

A great cable knit one for $27:

Want something a bit more fancy? Here's an Italian wool blanket at Sierra Trading Post for $23 (sign up for emails and you will likely get a 25%-40% off coupon within a week or two):

Where to shop for throws and pillows: Ikea, Target, Walmart, TJMaxx, Home Goods, Sierra Trading Post,, Amazon.

5. Sheer curtain panels

Why pay $19-49 per panel for these sheer curtains at West Elm...

... when you can pay $5 a panel (like I did) on these very similar Re-Style brand sheers from Target:

Even cheaper - this $5 pair of sheer curtains from Ikea:

There's also this Alpine Flata pair for $15 at Ikea ($7.50 a panel, if you aren't good at that math stuff).

And last but not least:

6. Wooden bowl filled with rocks

Ah yes, the most perplexing decor combination of all - the wooden bowl filled with rocks. I see this in design magazines left and right. But why? To be honest, I like how this looks, but I'm not sure why. It's just some rocks in a (usually wooden) bowl. At least with a throw blanket or decorative basket, you get some use out of the item. Even so, this is an easy and cheap look to get at home. I have a bowl of rocks on the shelf in our bathroom:

Previous owners put popcorn texture on the walls. Yuck. It's going away soon.

I got the bowl on clearance for a dollar or two at Target. The rocks were taken from the North Shore on our honeymoon.

I picked up a second wooden bowl, this one hand carved, for $13 as a souvenir during our San Francisco vacation.

Wooden bowls have character, yo.

If you fall for this trend like I did, here's where to find the necessary goods.

First, I've found some of the most inexpensive wooden bowls on Etsy. Here's a salad bowl with 4 mini seriving bowls for only $4. Or here's a bamboo dish for $4.99 at Ikea. Once again, Target comes through in the clutch with many wooden bowls for under $20. There are also many inexpensive options at Amazon.

Then all you need are some rocks. I picked up a bag of rocks for around $1.50 at Ikea. They also have them at craft stores like Michaels and JoAnn Fabrics. Or you can even find your own rocks outside and clean them up. Just don't steal them from a national park. I'm not bailing you out, if you do.

In summary

Alright, let's recap. You can decorate your home like West Elm with:

  1. Baskets
  2. Glossy white accent pieces
  3. Gallery frames
  4. Pillows and throws with soft texture
  5. Sheer curtain panels
  6. Wooden bowl filled with rocks
Remember, you don't have to pay a fortune to have some style in your home.

Have something to add? Comment below or email me your budget decorating tips here.

I'm linking this up with the Penny Pinching Party by "The Thrifty Home." Visit the blog for more creative ways to save money.

someone else's words

"Happiness comes when your work and words are of benefit to yourself and others." - Buddha

  © Thanks to for providing a great Blogger framework to remix. Hope you don't mind the changes I made.

Back to TOP