Today’s A to Z post topic is Design.

When I was a little kid, I used to dream about houses and then wake up and scramble to sketch out the floor plans before they vanished from my memory. My favorite notebooks were graph paper so I could complete to-scale drawings. I used to (and still do) monitor the local MLS daily, and back when my mom was a Realtor I’d beg her to take me to see fresh-on-the-market homes that appealed to me. I rarely miss the Charlottesville Parade of Homes, because I’ve always been interested in the latest and greatest trends in new home construction.

I started watching Trading Spaces on TLC way back before interior design was “trendy.” Once HGTV hit the big-time, I spent my teenage years glued to it rather than anything on MTV or any of the other networks watched by my peers. I knew from the time I was 8 or so years old that I wanted to be an architect when I grew up. I took two years of Technical Drawing and Architectural Drawing classes in high school, only to have a crisis of confidence my senior year and decide to apply to college as an undeclared major, because I didn’t think I’d get in to Virginia Tech’s School of Architecture.

I majored in English (because it was easy and I was good at it), and I regret settling. During my senior year of college, I applied to grad schools, two of which were the Masters in Architecture at Virginia Tech and the Masters program in Interior Design at George Washington University. I was accepted to both. I turned both offers down. I’ve regretted it ever since.

I’ve spent the four years since college graduation immersing myself in interior design and DIY blogs every day. I find myself feeling alternating surges of jealousy of those bloggers who jumped on the bandwagon circa 2009, before the DIY-blog train took off, and anger at myself for not doing the same thing (even though, to be fair, in 2009 I was a senior in college with no money and living in an apartment with three strangers – not the best material for a design blog). I can’t help but think that there are so many DIY/design bloggers out there who don’t have any actual design skill, but who instead have gotten by on a lot of luck and good timing.

Anyway, this hateful venting isn’t where I set out to go with this.

Interior design, architecture, houses, and real estate have been my passions for my entire life. I know this. But I haven’t acted on it. More recently, I’ve become interested in event design, wedding planning, and even print and graphic design. I have no idea if I have what it takes to turn these passions into a paying career, but I’ve been paralyzed by fear of trying for far too long.

So that brings me to my next goal for my 20’s: Design something. Be it a fantastic room for a client, the blueprints for my next home, or even just a logo in PhotoShop – I have to start somewhere. I’ve been itching to see my design vision accomplished for well over a decade. I owe it to myself to produce something real. (And maybe to share photos with the internet.)

Is there anyone else out there who’s ever denied a life-long dream? What happened when you acted on it? 


Living Room Inspiration

Since I posted yesterday about my soon-to-be house, I got all excited and wanted to keep going. Without further ado, here are my current thoughts on my future living room.

The very first time I saw my new house, I knew that the living room was going to be tricky. (Yes, even from the listing photos, I knew it was a layout challenge. So I took a tape measure with me on my tour!)

The living room is approximately 15’8’x11’8″, with the front door plus a double window and the ‘entry’ tile on one wall, the staircase and coat closet on another wall, a fireplace opposite from the staircase that juts out into the room, and a big opening to the dining area on the fourth wall. Here’s a bird’s-eye view:

living room overhead

Is that clearer? (I’ll have more photos once the house is actually mine. I ran around during the inspection trying to get shots from every angle.)

The obvious problems are the carpet and the tile. Unfortunately, the [ugly purple-brown] carpet is pretty new, so I can’t justify tearing it all out right away. The tile is ugly, too, but I’m thankful for it because it means that visitors won’t step straight onto my [ugly purple-brown] carpet with their wet or dirty shoes. Down the road, I’d love to rip out all the carpet and tile and lay down some hardwood. For now, though, the flooring will stay as-is.

I initially thought that the only possible furniture arrangement was two loveseats: one under the double window and one between the stairs and the closet. Something like this:


But then I realized that the room could hold a small-ish sofa if I floated it in the middle of the room, underneath the pass-through to the kitchen. There’s a 3’7″x8’5″ area where I might just be able to make something work. Like so:

LR_with_sofaSo that’s what I’m currently leaning toward. The cable jack is next to the fireplace, which doesn’t necessarily mean that’s where the TV has to go, but it’s kind of shaping up to work out that way.

With that general plan in mind, I’ve been online shopping for sofas. Here are my current contenders:

Or maybe something that feels more tailored, like this:

Of course, I want to wait until the house is mine and I’ve moved in before I actually pull the trigger on buying anything. I  need to get an actual feel for how much space is available in the spot I’ve mentally bookmarked for a sofa.

I’ve been really studying my Pinterest pins lately to try to see what I love and want to be surrounded by all the time, versus what I just casually like. And maybe it’s just because I’ve become obsessed with Emily Henderson in the past several months, but it turns out that everything I love is much different than I would have thought 6 months ago. I’m finding myself obsessed with white rooms with simple mid-century furniture, no clutter, and a Scandinavian feel. This from the girl whose favorite colors are 1) blue, and 2) rainbow. My childhood/adolescent bedroom was the most gorgeous royal blue — which I had custom-mixed to match my favorite t-shirt — and I’ve missed it (and wanted to recreate it in a more grown-up way) ever since my dad sold his house in 2011. So it’s going to be a challenge to navigate designing my first space. I’ve always thought I wanted color everywhere, but lately I’ve learned to appreciate the power of a white backdrop and even white furniture. Living with two kitties adds another layer of challenge.

Anyway, here’s the vibe I’m currently digging for my living room:

Notice all the white walls and white furniture?! I can’t wait to get started. My current goal is to create a blend of calm, white, and cool with just the right amount of color, warmth, and quirk. I want my house to be the happiest place on earth, made just for me, by me.

I’m beyond excited to finally have a place of my own, where I can go all-out with decorating and finding permanent homes for all the random things I’ve picked up over the years and stashed away for “my someday house.” I can’t believe I’ve finally bought it.

Lunchtime Design: Animals in HomeGoods

This edition of Lunchtime Design didn’t actually take place during lunchtime. It was about a month ago on a Sunday afternoon. But it still counts!

I went into HomeGoods to walk around and see what inspired me. Pretty soon, I noticed a theme. Luckily, that theme was one of my favorites: animals! There were animals all over the place.

First, I saw this display of owl platters. I loved the round one in the back right corner.

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Then I saw some glass animals. First, a turtle:

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Then, a fish:

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Then I moved to the food section, where I saw this adorable cheese grater. I think it was a porcupine? Or maybe a hedgehog? Either way, it was cute. If I ever had any occasion to grate cheese, I would have bought it.

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Then, there were these butterfly mini-cake tins.

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And then these cow salt and pepper shakers…

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In the kids’ section, I came across this cute polka-dotted piggy bank.

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In the pet section, I saw this trio of ceramic winged dogs.

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They reminded me of Falcor, but not as awesome.

In the bath section, I saw this seahorse-shaped shower caddy:

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And then this elephant soap dispenser:

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Then, there was the Halloween decor section (already?! it was August 18!), which was filled to the brim with owls of all sorts. I think this was intended to be a “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” set.

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Next up was this shiny silver rhino, which I now realize didn’t photograph well on an also-silver background:

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There seemed to be lots of roosters, but I’ve always hated rooster decor, so I avoided taking pictures of those. But I found the idea this plump hen roosting on her nest sort of endearing:

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Finally, I made it over to the lamp corner, where I was surprised to find more animals. There was this pair of huge seahorse lamps (see how the bases are the same height as that average-sized table lamp in between them?):

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And lastly, this gold bird-on-a-branch lamp:

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Interesting, right? I’m glad there are so many options for my love of animals to translate somewhat into my home decor–in ways other than my two real kitties shedding all over everything!

(Disclaimer: Most of the things in this post don’t align with my own style, and I certainly wouldn’t recommend trying to blend all of these things together! I just thought they were some cute ideas for inspiration for anyone who loves animals like I do.)

What do you think about incorporating animal-themed pieces into your home?

Lunchtime Design: Roxie Daisy

Last Thursday during lunch, I ducked in to Roxie Daisy, a shop just off the Downtown Mall that’s full of “elegant, and elegantly rustic, home furnishings.” (I always enjoy window-shopping as I walk by on my way to lunch, but on this day I specifically planned to go inside.)

Although Roxie Daisy is stocked with lots and lots of beautiful furnishings, nearly everything in the store is a bit out of my price range at this point in my life. (Sigh.) But as I was perusing, I noticed trends that I thought still served as very good design inspiration.

Mostly, I was taken by their shelving. I loved these industrial metal shelves that were backed with wood paneling and used to display books. This look could definitely be replicated on a budget!

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I’ve seen these same stools at Patina here in Charlottesville, and I just love the way they look. It seems that both shops keep a set by the check-out counter. Perhaps seeing something pretty encourages people to spend more money? 🙂

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I loved this antique shelving unit with numbered wire baskets. This would be an excellent storage system for a home office or craft room. Imagine each of those baskets filled with pretty fabric scraps!

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This was a lovely, airy, feminine bedroom display set up in the store. The white brick walls, big windows, fluffy white bed, and gold accents added up to a really soft and inviting look.

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I always find myself interested in different takes on deer mounts. (Because P would die to have a real one in his house and I would kill him if he did…) This one was fabric and stuffed. Much cuter than an actual Bambi head on your wall!

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I loved this light fixture, but like everything else with my phone’s camera, it was hard to grab a great picture.

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I liked the linen slipcovered sofa and the huge coffee table for displaying books…

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…But I really liked this other industrial-looking shelving unit on casters that was used for displaying candles and those annoying scent diffusers.

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So that sums up my lunchtime visit to Roxie Daisy. It’s a beautiful shop filled with wish-I-could-have-that! items, and it’s definitely worth a visit if you’re ever on the Charlottesville Downtown Mall.

Lunchtime Design: The Second Yard

One afternoon last week, I visited The Second Yard here in Charlottesville, which claims to offer “the best and biggest selection of decorator fabrics and quality home furnishings in Virginia.” I didn’t know what to expect upon walking in to a massive fabric store, but I was pleasantly surprised! The store is in an old house downtown, so each of the rooms on the lowest level and most on the middle level are staged as actual rooms, with upholstered furniture, mirrors, artwork, and accessories on display. (Here’s where I apologize once more for the less-than-beautiful pictures that result from my phone being the best camera I own…)

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I loved the fabric on this chair so much that I took a seat in it. Unfortunately, it wasn’t as comfortable as it is pretty.

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I liked the idea of these coordinating-but-not-matching green armchairs, especially with the gold mirror.

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Ugh! These pictures came out so badly! Anyone have any camera recommendations? (Cheap + good quality is the way I’d like to go.)

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I loved the antique gold mirror above the mantel, and the tailored, crisp lines of the sofa.

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An elephant lamp!!

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And once I got past the staged rooms, I got to the main event: the fabrics! Room after room after room of gorgeous fabric. There were SO MANY ideas in my head. I had never really considered how inspirational fabric can be, but man! I wanted to design whole rooms around some of these.

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Naturally, the blues were some of my favorites.

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I really loved this large-scale black and white print. It would make for some dramatic curtains.

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These were gorgeous because of the texture. You can only sort of see it in this picture, but all of these fabrics were plush and soft and would have been perfect to add just the right amount of cozy to a room.

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A lot of the rooms were organized by color, which I found helpful. Here’s the red room (and looking at these pictures makes me cringe–my phone somehow made some gorgeous fabrics look just awful!).

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And then there was a green room…

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I loved these outdoor fabrics with the fish pattern!

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Finally! A picture that’s true-ish to life. This was one of two rooms with cutting tables, with many more bolts of pretty blues!

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I feel good about ending with that picture, because it’s so pretty. I really enjoyed perusing The Second Yard (in truth, it was more like exploring, since the place is so huge!), and wound up just wandering and thinking about different fabrics to mix and match. It was really inspirational–if only I could find a house to start decorating!

My Favorite Kitchen EVER

I was reading the July 2013 issue of This Old House, and I came across my favorite kitchen of all time. It was submitted to TOH‘s Reader Remodel issue by Jenn and Kevin Rodgers in Duluth, Minnesota, and won them $1,000!

Just look…


I love, love, love the white + blue + gray + natural wood palette. If I could, I would put this exact kitchen in my future house.

Check out the before:


And all the beautiful afters:


I LOVE the wood-wrapped Ikea cabinetry on either side of the oven!


There’s even a walk-in pantry hiding away behind the refrigerator.


Such a smart mom touch to add in a laundry chute!


A command center with a pinboard and a charging shelf station for electronics…


Dear Jenn and Kevin: Can I move in? I’ll do my best to cook you dinner once a week. I’m sure everything cooked in that kitchen tastes perfect!

All photos from:,,20702455,00.html

Reunion Road Trip, Day 4: The Architecture of Cape May

I decided to skip blogging about Day 3 of our Reunion Road trip, because it consisted of waking up, spending the morning at the beach, heading back to Lauren’s house for a lunch cookout, taking an afternoon nap (this was just me–everyone else hung out by the pool), getting ready and heading out for dinner, and then bar-hopping. Not that it wasn’t a wonderful day (it was), but I was too busy relaxing to take any pictures!

Day 4 was Saturday, which was the last day in Cape May for P and me. (The rest of the girls stayed until Sunday, but we were heading back to D.C. that night for the Nationals baseball game.) If you saw my Reunion Road Trip: Budget Breakdown post, you’ll remember that P and I stayed in a motel on Friday night, and woke up there Saturday morning. We met up with the rest of the group at a bagel shop for breakfast, and then, since it was the coolest day of the trip so far, Lauren led the group on a walking tour around town. I took the opportunity to take pictures of the Victorian architecture that  Cape May is known for!

nope, not San Fran! Cape May, New Jersey!

nope, not San Fran! Cape May, New Jersey!

one of many B&Bs in Cape May

one of many B&Bs in Cape May

all the houses had at least one porch

all the houses had at least one porch

tons of detail

tons of detail

I was befuddled by the amount of upkeep that must be required to maintain the intricate paint jobs on the houses around town. But they were all kept up–there really weren’t any houses in disrepair to be seen!

another B&B

another B&B

a more "beachy"-looking beach house

a more “beachy”-looking beach house

After walking a few blocks from the bagel shop, we made it back to the pedestrian mall. I snapped a picture of this storefront, because it struck me as so different from the bright colors and gingerbreading all over town. The whole store was painted the same color, and there was a simple exterior light above the door:

"Galvanic" storefront

“Galvanic” storefront

At the end of the mall is Congress Hall, which is one of the most famous locations in Cape May. The original hotel burned down and was later rebuilt to restore it to its original grandeur. It wasn’t impressive from the outside (I thought it was very ugly), but the inside was actually really pretty.

Congress Hall

Congress Hall

I was surprised that there were some boutique shops inside, because this was one of the bars we had visited the night before, and it hadn’t occurred to me that we should shop there. One boutique had two striking chandeliers:

chandelier #1

chandelier #1

chandelier #2

chandelier #2

And then we made it back to the bar where we had hung out the night before. I wasn’t able to get a great picture due to the lighting, but it was decorated in a way that made it feel like an old-timey, very high-class lounge.

swanky bar inside Congress Hall

swanky bar inside Congress Hall

Next up, we passed a little boutique that was adorable inside and out. I didn’t catch the name; otherwise, I’d try to link to their website!

pink, frilly, Victorian storefront

pink, frilly, Victorian storefront

Inside, I was happy to see ornate gold mirrors, chandeliers with ceiling medallions, and faux animal mounts. Lots of good design stuff here!



wooden deer head above the necklace display

wooden deer head above the jewelry display

another wooden deer head mounted above the clothing

another wooden deer head mounted above the clothing, and a white ceramic dog!

I asked P to get out of my picture and he refused, put his sunglasses on, and smirked. That’s his punk face, because he knows he’s annoying me!

another huge gold mirror, and an original fireplace

another huge gold mirror, and an original fireplace

The next store we headed into had lots of household-y type things, but there was some eye candy, too. I had never seen a brushed metal drum shade before…

tin ceiling + metal drum shade

tin ceiling + metal drum shade

And I liked the way they stored and displayed their drawer pulls:

lots of knob options

lots of knob options

As it started to heat up outside, we decided to head back to Lauren’s house. On the walk back to the car, we passed a decidedly non-Victorian house. This is just another example of how well-maintained all the houses are in Cape May!

how Colonial!

how Colonial!

And speaking of well-maintained, here’s Lauren’s backyard, where we spent many hours soaking up the sun:

the pool + canal

the pool + canal

It was tough to say goodbye to that, but P and I had to get back on the road! We were on the road by 1:30, heading for D.C. and my first baseball game. But we hit a snag when my car almost wouldn’t start, first when we left our motel that morning, and again when we tried to leave Lauren’s house. P thought it was my starter, and I decided we wouldn’t stop (or at least turn the engine off) unless absolutely necessary. Since I was worried about my car, I was in a pretty bad mood from there on out. I refused to stop for lunch or gas, and I was pretty crabby. After about an hour and a half of driving, I called my dad and described what my car was doing, and he suggested that we find an Advance Auto Parts, asap. We did, and thankfully, I only needed a new battery rather than a new starter or alternator. About 45 minutes and $126 later, we were back on the road, and I was much happier!

We made it through New Jersey and into Delaware, where we stopped for gas and lunch. After that, P took a turn driving and I took a nap. I woke up when we got to the Baltimore toll. After that, there was some traffic on the route to D.C., but we eventually made it to the Vienna Metro stop, figured out how to buy tickets, and made it into the city.

daytime at the ball field

daytime at the ball field

It was 95 degrees when we got to the game, and it was still about 90 when we left, so, needless to say, I was drenched in sweat and seriously uncomfortable the whole time. But it was still a new experience, and it wasn’t nearly as boring as baseball is on TV!

nighttime at the baseball field

nighttime at the ball field

The game we saw ended up going into extra innings, which meant we didn’t leave the park until about 10:30pm. After a long ride on the Metro, we made it back to the car, and then had to hop back on the road for another 30 minute drive to P’s friend’s house in Haymarket. We realized we hadn’t had dinner, so we stopped at a McDonalds at about 12:30. Then P and his friend stayed up talking until about 2am! It was a late, late night, and I was so glad when I finally made it to bed.

We woke up (late) the next morning, and we all got showered and dressed for brunch in NOVA. After brunch, we hit the road for the hour and a half drive back to Charlottesville!