Tropical Oasis Master Bedroom: Design Plan

Introducing our next project at The Riverside Retreat: the master bedroom! Here’s how it looked when we moved in (July 2018):

The only thing it had going for it is the 9′ ceilings, and it’s a decent size at just over 13×13′.

Originally there was a closet in the corner that was added on at some point.

We added a few pieces of furniture to make it livable, but moved into one of the other bedrooms a few months later during the new floor install.

I ordered green velvet curtains and temporarily put them up—they were the first thing purchased and inspiration for the future room design…

And now I finally get to bring this design to life! The concept is a luxurious, rustic resort somewhere in the jungle of Bali…

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The style is more sophisticated (compared to our Rainforest Room and the “In the Clouds” theme I have planned for the third bedroom), appropriate for the master suite of the house. Like every room design, I made sure there was a mix of textures and tones, using new and vintage pieces. Earthy colors, natural fibers, cozy linens and varied materials will make you feel like you’ve been transported to a tropical oasis. It’s going to be unlike any room I’ve designed before! (Check out my inspiration for the entire home via my Pinterest)

Here’s what I chose: the deep green velvet curtains, which have been sitting in storage all year. I ordered four 6’x9′ panels in green, and you can see more photos and my review of them in this post (the coupon code LC15 still works!)

I already had the 8×10′ natural jute rug from a while back (it’s one of the most affordable ones I’ve found!) and I’ll be using a vintage trunk as a nightstand (similar to the one pictured above—still deciding if I want to use another chest for the second night stand).

Since the curtains are not 100% blackout and I love the look of layered window treatments, I partnered with BlindsGalore once again for custom shades. The plan was to bring in another woven wood texture, so I requested a handful of samples from their Natural Bamboo Shades line:

In the photo above they’re displayed on the bedroom floor, which was important to see how they’d complement each other. It was a really tough call between the bottom two and middle swatch and in the end it was a toss up, but I was drawn to the black accents and threading in the Hana Garden, so that was the lucky winner!

There’s many customization options with these but the biggest decision was inside or outside mount. Inside mount installations look custom and tailored, and normally I would use this on an encased window with trim. I almost went that route, but in the end decided to go with an outside mount, to make the windows look larger and prevent light from coming through the sides. I also chose a blackout liner and continuous cord, which is recommended for larger/heavier shades. The final size of these is 76″w x 68″h, so they’re pretty massive!

They’ll take a couple weeks to arrive as they are custom made to order, but I’m excited to see how they look in the finished room!

Another update we made was swapping out the outdated fan with this sleeker 44″ model. The wood blades give it tropical, resort style vibe and the dark trim fits in with the rest of the black accents. It’s also the perfect size for our room, and the price is right at $102!

In a perfect world, there would be a large mural covering the entire empty wall on the left when you walk in. Unfortunately, because these walls are so obnoxiously textured and we didn’t have the budget to skim coat or add new drywall, wallpaper was not an option. The next best thing? Framing a wall mural in a large gallery wall to disguise the texture! This Botanical Bliss wall mural from Rocky Mountain Decals caught my eye, and the width works out so that I can just cut four panels in half and frame the 8 sections. I’ll be using these inexpensive 24×36″ Ikea frames to fill the wall.

Next up, the centerpiece of the room—the bed! I spent so many hours hunting for the perfect tall dark metal canopy bed (that was budget friendly) and this one ended up at the top of my list. I haven’t pulled the trigger quite yet, but I’m 99% sure I’m going for it.

I picked up some inexpensive gauze, which I’ll be cutting into two panels and draping over the canopy like so:

So romantic, isn’t it?! Atop the antique chest night stand will sit these textured wood lamps (I’ve had them for a few years) and faux palms in a vase (can’t use real greens in a vacation rental!)

The walls and trim will match the rest of the house—SW Pure White on the walls, and SW Loggia on the doors/trim. Valspar’s Cracked Pepper will be used for the black accents (windows and closet doors). Ready to see the progress so far?

Last summer the old closet was removed, and we stole a couple feet of space from another wall to create a new closet and a small master bathroom:

The room became a junk/tool/dust collector for months, until we finally got our act together just recently.

We recovered the sagging, cracking plaster ceiling with fresh drywall:

Then cleaned up and patched the walls (painted SW Pure White), painted the trim and baseboards, and used Loggia at 50% strength on the ceiling.

Originally we had planned to do an intricate wood/bamboo treatment on the ceiling, but we ran out of time and have to get this house finished! I’m hoping we’ll get a chance one day to execute my plan when we have a free weekend. For now, a little color to keep things interesting is good enough.

Lucas also just finished painting the windows black, and here’s how it looks right this minute:

We still have a few paint touchups to do, and of course a very deep cleaning before we start bringing in the furniture and accessories.

Fortunately the hardest part is over—now I just need to get everything ordered and assembled. I think the green velvet curtains and artwork will really make it come alive!

Can you picture the “After”?

Soon, my friends! In the meantime, we have a downstairs bonus room to work on, a third bedroom to start on and a mile long punch list to get this house finished. I’ll be sharing updates on Instagram so make sure you’re following me there!



DIY Loft Bed

Our new year’s resolution is to get the Riverside Retreat up and running ASAP, and in addition to our latest kitchen reveal, we’ve been making good progress in other areas! Anyone remember the downstairs bonus room?

We built a reading nook on one end, tore down the closet and installed Pergo flooring throughout, but majority of the room had been ignored and used as tool storage (as the house has no garage). The plan is to make this the media/lounge room and go bold with the design—a floor to ceiling faux fern wall with a neon sign, loft bed, hanging chair and typographic wall mural. We’re not holding back! I’ll share the full design plans in an upcoming post, but here’s an idea of the vibe…

To best utilize the long and narrow room (and create additional sleeping space to host more guests) we thought it would be fun to build a full sized loft bed in the recessed area of the former closet. Here’s what it looked like originally:

Once upon a time those steps led up to a door to the kitchen in the original house (this room is a converted carport). This is how the corner looked after demo + floor install:

It was the perfect nook for a bed! But how do we make it happen? It was a lofty goal (ha ha, get it?) to build this thing ourselves, especially with the holidays and a new(ish) baby and needing to get this house finished months ago. Lucas was looking forward to the challenge but I didn’t think we had enough time and wanted to hire it out. Eventually I gave in and Lucas enlisted his dad’s help to execute the vision (super technical drawing, I know):

The final result would end up pretty different, but it was a start. Lucas was confident he could figure it out so I let him take the reins and handed over complete control (minus a couple small creative decisions, of course 😉 I wasn’t involved in the materials planning or present for any of the build, all of the documentation was done by Lucas and his dad. He even wrote up this tutorial for you guys (so if it is confusing, take it up with him :P)

Materials needed


2x6x8 (3)

2x4x8 (8)

1x10x8 (2)

1x6x8 (1)

1x3x8 (10)

1x4x8 (1)

4×8 ½” plywood sheet (2)

4×8 beadboard sheet

Tongue and groove boards

Quarter round trim


1x4x8 (3)


3” wood screws

1 ¼” wood screws

2 ½” wood screws

5” lag screws

4” bolts


Liquid nails

2” finishing nails

4” joist hangers

6” joist hangers

First we had to find the studs in the three walls. The wall at the head of the bed originally had a door leading to the kitchen, which was later filled and converted to a closet by the previous owners. The stud locations were a complete mystery, so I had to cut a strip in the wall to locate them (this wall will be covered, no worries). Our stud finder doesn’t work reliably on plaster walls, so there was a lot of drilling small holes to find the studs on the other walls.

The 2×6’s were attached to the three walls to create our bed frame. We used 5” lag screws and washers into the studs (at least two in each stud) to ensure it was as sturdy as possible.

For the fourth and final piece of the frame, we used joist hangers on each end:

Our frame was done!

The next step was to attach the 2×4 slats for the plywood mattress base to sit on. We used 2×4’ joist hangers for these.

One of the slats was placed closer to the end where the ladder was going to go since it would get more traffic, and the remaining three were evenly spaced out.

The frame was now ready to put the plywood on top.

One sheet of plywood covered the majority of our frame, but we had to rip down a second piece to fill the remaining space. We screwed the plywood into the 2×4 slats to keep it in place.

It passed the safety test!

Next: building the headboard.

A headboard was needed because the entire back wall would be covered in faux greenery—not something you want to lean up against! A simple design was decided on, with tongue and groove boards to mirror the window wall in this room.

2×4’s were used for the frame, and a few additional lag screws to attach the frame to the wall. We had to use a paddle bit to let the screw countersink about halfway into the 2×4 to ensure there was enough length to catch the wall stud.

The tongue and groove boards were cut down to size and attached starting from the bottom, using liquid nails and finishing nails.

We had to rip down the final piece to fit the size we chose, and finished it with a 1×6 along the top. We didn’t worry too much about the gaps along the wall or below the 1×6, as we planned on putting quarter round along those edges.

Next: install the railing vertical supports.

We started on the left, using wood screws to attach to the shiplap…

Since these verticals were going to be the main source of strength for the railing, we used 4 bolts that went through the 2×6 for additional support.

With the railing in place, we could now install the 1×10 that would serve as the finished front of the bed. We cut it down to length and notched out a section where we planned to mount the ladder (the ladder was moved here after we decided it would be too narrow at the bottom of the bed).

We had to notch out the back of the 1×10 where it hit the lag bolts on the vertical supports, so it could sit flush against the 2×6 frame.

The two handles in the photo above were going to be used to hook the ladder onto, so it  could be removed and out of the way when not in use (we later removed them!)

We finished building the railing by attaching two more 1×3’s for the horizontal pieces using 1.25″ screws (countersunk).

For the finished surface underneath the bed, a 4×8 sheet of bead board was screwed into the bottom of the 2×4 slats. 

Extra 2×4 blocks were added on each end to secure the bead board to.

Rather than buy a second full sheet of beadboard to fill the space, a 1×6 board was used along the back edge to cover the gap. 

1×3’s were used along the remaining edges.

Since the heads of a few of the lag screws were sticking out where the trim was going, we had to use spacers throughout. I ripped down some pieces of scrap wood and attached them to the 2×6 using liquid nails.

We also ripped down a few smaller pieces to fill the gaps left around the vertical railing, between the plywood and 1×10”. We could have notched the plywood out instead, but didn’t think about it until we had already screwed it down.

Since our nook was 89” long and a normal full size mattress is 75”, we decided to utilize the extra length and add a shelf at the end of the mattress for people to keep their belongings (phone, water, etc).

To do this, we built a simple frame out of 2×4’s and clad it with finish grade plywood, making sure to miter all the edges for a cleaner look.

At this point we installed quarter round along the edges and used wood filler to cover the corners, screw holes, and finishing nail holes around the entire bed.

Next up: building the ladder

We liked the size and the angle of our 6’ step ladder and decided to use it as a template. Having an example to copy allowed us to avoid trying to figure out those complicated cuts on our own!

We cut two of the 1×4’s down to length for the sides, then used the angle finder to cut the top and bottom. The bottom was flush with the floor and the top edge sat flush against the 1×10 frame of the bed.

We then measured and laid out where the rungs would go:

The two side rails were attached at the top, using a ripped down piece of finish plywood and bunk bed ladder hooks we got on Amazon.

With the ladder hooked to the bed, we attached each rung, starting from the bottom, using two 2 ½” wood screws from each side.

We were very careful to make sure each rung was the correct distance apart as well as level. 2×4 blocks were used to ensure the spacing between each step was the same all the way up.

We also very carefully pre-drilled the holes to make sure the screws went straight in and didn’t stick out of the top or bottom of the step.

For additional strength, we added another piece below each step and secured it with 3” wood screws from the side, and liquid nails on the top against the step.

It was at this point that I tried moving the ladder against the wall like we originally planned. After we built the bed frame, I thought the spacing would be too tight to have the ladder permanently on that side, but after trying it out, we realized it was perfectly comfortable and easier to get up to the bed. Back to Plan A, and we were able to permanently attach the ladder to the wall and to the bed frame.

At this point all that was left to do was fill the remaining holes (most of the holes required two applications of wood filler, as the counter-sunk screw holes were too big to get a smooth finish after just one pass), and paint!

Of course, Jenna chose black. We used the same SW Tricorn Black (in semi-gloss) that we painted the sliding doors leading down into the room.

Most of the bed took just one coat of paint, with the exception of the bead board and a few touch ups.

Painting was completed over a couple days.

In total, this project was completed over the course of ten days (three full days, the rest evenings/a few hours at a time). Not the quickest project, but we wanted to take our time and had to figure a lot out as we went without a blueprint to follow. The total cost was around $400, but I already had a lot of the screws, liquid nails and paint on hand. Huge thanks to Dad for helping! I really enjoyed working with you on this one.

The paint was barely dry before we jumped right into the next project—our greenery wall!

Told you things were getting wild. I’ll share a blog update with those details soon…

A pull-out sofa will go underneath the bed, and a TV mounted on the wall across from that. Here’s the view from underneath the loft bed, looking towards the future TV:

Hang tight, more on the way!



Riverside Retreat Kitchen Reveal

Ringing in the new decade with a new kitchen!!! After months of tireless work transforming this space, I’m thrilled to share the results!

If you’re just joining the party, make sure to get caught up on the whole process with Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4. Here’s how the kitchen looked before:

It’s your standard 13×13′ room, L shaped layout.

There’s a doorway leading from the dining room and another to the laundry room.

With the floor plan of the house, we didn’t have the option to change or increase the footprint (including widening the main doorway, which borders a bedroom).

But even if we did, the goal was to transform this room on a budget—this house will be a vacation rental and as an investment property, we need to minimize our costs.

For this makeover, that meant choosing inexpensive finishes and lots of DIY! We first replaced the old tile with durable Pergo laminate back in 2018 (currently on sale for only $2.48/sf right now, I highly recommend these for wear/durability!):

Over the last summer, we gutted the kitchen, redid some of the rotted joists, ran new plumbing and electric.

We also repaired the walls and added smooth drywall to the uneven ceiling.

We waited for Ikea’s kitchen sale and purchased all of the cabinets, built-in dishwasher and countertops for around $5800 (more details on that in this post).

The backsplash tile was installed (we hired this part out to save time) …

And then Lucas took over and spent his nights and weekends finishing the rest. So much custom work went into this, like building a custom range hood (which we finished with wallpaper!)…

Custom wood panels around the fridge…

And around the pantry cabinet…

And of course, the weeks-long process of painting the lower wood cabinets (our first time using a paint gun):

And all of the custom fit trim and baseboard around the lower cabinets…

It was truly a learning experience for Lucas, who did 95% of the work (I wish I could have helped more, but someone’s gotta watch the baby!) It was his first time figuring out most of this and I’m so proud of his work ethic and determination to complete this project.

In the end, it took significantly longer than we had expected/hoped but going into the new year we have a brand new custom kitchen that I think anyone would be happy with!

The star of this show is arguably those rich green cabinets.

I’m digging the BM Peale Green.

The warm gold finishes are a really nice compliment and I’m happy with the way they turned out. I used inexpensive pulls and knobs I had been eyeing on Lowe’s for a long time, and the finish is close to Delta’s champagne bronze faucets (a personal favorite).

I went with an affordable drop in sink for easy installation, and because the counters are not solid butcher block so we didn’t want the cut to be visible.

How neat are these shelves? I knew I wanted open shelving but thought it’d be fun to try something different than the typical floating shelves. I partnered with Shelfology to customize this Verne shelf system to perfectly fit our space.

You can get them in any size with any type of wood (I ordered the 12″d unfinished Ash and we stained them to match our countertops). They’re installed using 3 screws & anchors in each bracket—much easier than our experiences installing floating shelves!

My favorite part is that you can make the brackets any color you want. They offer custom powder coating in hundreds of colors, so I was able to choose a metallic gold that matched our faucet. Can you tell how much I love these shelves? 🙂

And can we take a moment of appreciation for this Cloe tile? I knew it would be lovely (we installed it in baby blue in the Blue Lagoon Bathroom) but man, it’s pretty in white too.

It adds such a nice iridescent texture to the room.

Speaking of shiny things… did you notice the appliances?! I was nervous about ordering these without seeing them in person (and very little photos of them ‘in the wild’ online) but I have to say, I’m a big fan of the Whirlpool Sunset Bronze…

We ordered the counter-depth fridge (10% off right now!) with the ice/water dispenser—very convenient for a rental! The inside is still covered in plastic but so far, so good 🙂

The matching stove is my favorite, though. It’s a touch screen with smart technology and the most high tech appliance I’ve ever owned.

We’ll be able to connect it to our smart app and monitor/control it via phone if needed, which could come in handy later on.

As for the dishwasher, we opted for the Ikea Spolad to fit with the Torhamn door for a built-in look. Haven’t ran a cycle yet so I can’t speak on the quality, but we don’t love the fact that it isn’t flush with the rest of the doors. Live and learn…

The “island” is a $50 table I refinished (Maison Blanche‘s Wrought Iron) and put on 4″ casters.

There isn’t a lot of counter space in this kitchen so this is an easy fix for that, and the bar stools provide the added bonus of seating.

You barely notice the low profile ceiling fan, but it was a necessity in this room that can quickly turn into a greenhouse with west facing single pane windows and heat from the oven and stovetop.

Does the rug look familiar to you? It’s the same rug we have in our living room (my favorite rug of all time)! I loved it so much I had to get one for this house. It looks brownish in photos but in person it has a lot of deep green in it—a perfect match for our cabinets.

Using a grasscloth wallpaper treatment on our range hood was an experiment (I’ve never seen it done before) but I’m glad we took the risk, I think it turned out to be a pretty unique feature (and so simple!)

Side note: I haven’t finished stocking the kitchen with vacation rental supplies yet, so some of these photo props were borrowed from our house and won’t be staying permanently 😉

The tall cabinet on the left will hold the microwave + broom storage. We still need to customize the shelves to make that happen…

Since no one is living here full time and we only need the basic necessities, there’s an abundance of storage space!

Painting the metal windows black was a quick and easy way to make them pop.

And you can never go wrong with a classic schoolhouse pendant light and inexpensive woven shade.

We can just imagine all the families that will soon get to enjoy this kitchen and make memories here!

A lot of love and time went into every detail, and we hope it shows.

The kitchen isn’t 100% finished though, we still have to swap out the laundry room door and build a large chalkboard for the back wall (between the two doorways).

The other side of the room is clearly not as exciting…

Ahh, this view is better…


Wall color: SW Pure White

Trim color: SW Loggia

Cabinets: Ikea Axstad uppers, Torhamn lowers (painted BM Peale Green)

Ikea Karlby countertops

Pergo Floors

Whirlpool Sunset Bronze Fridge

Whirlpool Sunset Bronze Stove

Ikea Spolad dishwasher

Backsplash tile

Shelfology Verne shelf system

Cabinet pulls (in 4″, 5″ and 6″)

Cabinet knobs

33″ Sink


Pendant light

Window shade

Ceiling fan

Range hood vent

Grasscloth wallpaper (for range hood)

5×7 Rug

Bar stools

Lidded jar on counter

A huge thank you to Lowe’s for partnering with me on this project, along with Bedrosians,  Shelfology and Loloi! These have been a few of my favorite brands/products to work with over the years and they’ve really helped make this kitchen something special.

A couple side by side transformation shots, just for fun…

Ahh, so satisfying! Cheers to a clean slate in 2020—more big changes at the Riverside Retreat, coming up next!

2019 Highlights + Recap

On Christmas Day in 2010 I hit publish on my first blog post. Now here we are, at the end of that decade, and what a way to finish. 2019 was the year I finally realized the life I had imagined—a wonderful husband, our dream home, and a precious baby. It took a lot of hard work and many detours to get here, but it was my journey and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

via Shannon Renee Photography

At the end of each year I always look back and reflect on the past twelve months. It’s an important practice that helps us learn from our experiences, and set clear intentions and goals for the next year.

One thing I love about blogging is that it has become a personal online record book, one that I’ve been able to reference years later. It contains details and images that would never have been kept otherwise, even in our memories. And I love that so many of you have found value in these posts, and they continue to be discovered every day.

2019 was the most exhausting year to date, from growing a baby to finishing the Heights House to working on project after project at the Riverside Retreat. Here are the highlights…

In January there was major progress on the Heights House, we built a bench for our foyer, shared a DIY sliding door tutorial and installed windows in the Heights House. In February we made a very special announcement, along with plans for our master and guest bathroom.

In March we started on the front porch and the backyard, and built a fire pit. In April we revealed our guest bathroom, and a tutorial for the world’s longest stenciling project 😉 In May we revealed our front porch, master bathroom, backyard and patio (part 1 and part 2). Whew!

In June I shared a tour of our new home, plans for the next bathroom and a DIY closet reveal. In July we DIY’d a trellis wall, closet and changing station for the nursery. In August we shared a DIY board & batten tutorial, another bathroom was revealed along with plans for the next bathroom, and the big nursery reveal.

In September I shared Esmé’s birth story, along with our first family photos, and revealed our new kitchen. In October I shared our festive fall front porch, a personal update on postpartum life, and revealed our powder bath. In November I posted details on our living room design, and revealed our blue lagoon master bathroom. In December there was a big kitchen update, along with a Christmas living room & home tour.

Looking back, we’ve accomplished a lot more than it feels like we have, especially amidst all of the delays and setbacks we faced. There’s a saying about how people overestimate what they can do in a day, and underestimate what they can achieve in a year. This has certainly been the case, even though we are quite far from our goal of finishing the Riverside Retreat. Taking the time to reflect back on the year helps me to stay focused on the positive—on what we did accomplish instead of where we fell short.

via Shannon Renee Photography

As a blogger, it’s also important to find out the posts that performed the best each year (based on page views). It helps me to understand the content you want to see and plan accordingly for the next year. I have to say, I’m a little surprised about the #1 spot! Did your favorite post make it?

Here are the Top 10 posts from 2019:

1. DIY String light planters

2. Backyard Makeover Reveal

3. Heights House Guest Bathroom Reveal

4. Heights House Moving in tour

5. DIY Sliding X door tutorial

6. Heights House Master Bathroom Reveal

7. Heights House Kitchen Reveal

8. The Nursery Reveal

9. Faux wood beam install

10. Stenciled Patio Makeover

These were just the most popular posts from what was published in 2019, but my highest ranked posts overall for the year are actually old DIY tutorials—all thanks to Pinterest! Just for fun, here’s my Top 5 most viewed posts this year:

1. DIY Sofa Table (this is my most popular blog post of all time, who’da thunk?!)

2. DIY Barn Door Plans

3. DIY Paneled Wall

4. Easiest DIY flat panel door upgrade

5. Plain to paneled DIY door makeover

Turns out you guys love DIY tutorials even more than room reveals! So what’s in store for 2020 you ask? A lot more of what you saw in 2019—DIY projects, room reveals, design and decorating insights and a few baby/life updates for good measure. We’ll be wrapping up the Riverside Retreat and getting it vacation-rental ready (hopefully by the end of winter) while continuing projects at the Heights House. I’m sure there will be a few surprises along the way, and who knows where we’ll end up by this time next year.

Here’s my Top 9 Instagram posts of 2019… looks like you were loving the outdoor spaces and baby updates most!

I’d love to know in the comments what you want to see more of in 2020—before/afters, behind the scenes, tutorials, videos? Ask and ye shall receive!

A huge thank you, as always, for your readership and support over the years. I never could have imagined what this space would turn into over the past decade, and feel immensely grateful to be able to do what I love and share it with you.

Have a wonderful New Year, and I’ll see you on the other side!

Last Minute Stocking Stuffer Gift Guide

Did Christmas sneak up on anyone else this year, or am I the only one still shopping for last minute gifts?! I wasn’t planning on sharing another gift guide (check out my Favorite Things of 2019) but in my recent search for stocking stuffers, I came across a handful of affordable options I thought I’d pass along in case you’re still looking! Everything below will arrive BEFORE CHRISTMAS if you order today (*with Amazon Prime)!

On this first list are items I’ve personally bought for myself and am loving this year. They’d make great stocking stuffers for anyone like me: DIYer, new mama, hostess, creative and homebody.

1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8 / 9 / 10

1. Phone tripod: A must-have for anyone who wants to take their photo/video skills to the next level. I recently purchased this to use for timelapses, but it’s also great to set up still shots (it works on bluetooth and has a remote to control your phone’s camera). So many uses, and for only $14, it’s a no-brainer!

2. Short angle brush: I linked this in my last gift guide but it’s worth repeating because it makes the perfect stocking stuffer for people of all ages! Get this bad boy and stop using painter’s tape for cutting in 👍

3. Cuccio body butter: My sister got me hooked on this stuff earlier this year. Now my go-to moisturizer, it’s super rich and makes your skin so soft. It’s one of those small luxuries I make sure to include in my daily routine that’s now filled with unglamorous mom duties!

4. 50mm lens: The majority of the non-iPhone photos on this blog are taken with my 50mm prime lens. I use the 1.4mm version, but the 1.8mm “nifty fifty” is a close second and perfect budget lens for beginners looking to drastically step up their game. The quality is night and day from the kit lens, and you honestly will not find a better lens for the price!

5. Bow scrunchies: I’ve always had a love for bows, and now that I’m a girl mom, I’m all in on this bandwagon. I bought this cute bow scrunchie set for just $9 and wear them pretty much every time I leave the house (I match them to Esmé’s outfits 😉) These make a great gift for all ages and they work with both casual and dressy looks!

6. Leather wallet:  The #1 best seller on Amazon for women’s wallets, I replaced mine earlier this year after being sold on the 5,000+ nearly 5 star reviews. There’s plenty of space to keep all of my cards organized, and love the double zippered pockets for cash and other smaller items. Tons of colors to choose from and only $20!

7. Gold flatware set: This was a Christmas gift last year and I whip these beauties out every time we entertain. They’re solid and heavy, make for a beautiful presentation and dishwasher safe too. At just $12 a set it’s the best deal on this style that I’ve found.

8. Mama bear sweater: A cute and comfy sweater for mamas of all ages (mine just arrived in the mail this week!) It’s lightweight and perfect for Florida winters, so you can find me rocking this for the next few months (with my scrunchie bows, of course 😉)

9. Marble iPhone case: No lie, I’ve had this case for almost three years and it’s still going strong. It protected my phone through eight months of backpacking in some rough conditions and it still looks great—crazy impressive for an $8 case. Lucas got the black/white marble at the same time I did and still loves his too!

10. Blanket scarf: I’ve also had this black + white scarf for years and it’s the first thing I reach for when the temps drop below 65º. It looks just as cute hung on a coat rack as it does worn, and even works as a shawl or lightweight blanket in a pinch. Comes in tons of colors/patterns for different looks, and at just $15 you can afford to buy several!

Need more ideas? Try these other gifts that caught my eye, all under $30 and delivered by Christmas:

1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8 / 9 / 10

1. Gold cocktail shaker set: For the host/hostess with an eye for detail, this gold shaker set is a gift they’ll want to keep out on display all year (we gifted one to a friend this year who loved it). It will make any mixed drink feel like a special occasion!

2. Copper kitchen gadget set: I can’t believe the price for this entire set! It’s available in multiple colors and would look great stashed in a utensil crock. A perfect gift for the new homeowner.

3. Tassel garland: These wood bead garlands have been popping up everywhere lately, and make a great tabletop décor accent. They double as swag for holiday decorating as well, and you can’t beat the price at $14 for two!

4. 2020 Planner: For the detail oriented person who loves good old fashioned handwritten reminders, this planner is both stylish and functional. It’s an Amazon best seller and the price is right at just $8 shipped.

5. USB charger outlet: For the electronics lover who always needs to charge their devices (or just the hard to shop for person who has everything, because we could all use this!) this handy USB outlet allows you to keep your chargers plugged in separately, freeing up those valuable receptacles. We each have one behind our night stand where we keep our phones charged at night.

6. Dewalt titanium drill bet set: Dewalt has been our tool brand of choice for a while and we’ve been slowly upgrading all of our tools to this brand. Their drill bit quality is no exception, and these titanium bits work with all kinds of surfaces. Perfect for the DIY’er and all those hard to shop for men in your life.

7. Suede moccasin slippers: These indoor/outdoor memory foam slippers look so luxurious, and the little bow is just the icing on the cake! I would live in these things during winter if was colder here. Available in four different colors, though I’m partial to the ‘wine’ shade.

8. AuraGlow Whitening Kit: This is the teeth whitener I swear by, and it has the same active ingredient you can find in dentist whitening treatments at a fraction of the cost. I’ve done it both ways and have found the results to be identical. Now I only use the gel once every two weeks or so to maintain my color (I’m a big coffee and wine drinker!)

9. Anker Power Bank: Anyone with a phone needs a power bank, and this small and lightweight model is the top rated on Amazon (over 15,000 nearly 5 star reviews). This thing was our lifeline while traveling, and we make sure to bring it every time we go on day trips or work on DIY projects where we’re using our phone heavily for music/photos.

10. Burt’s Bees travel set: You can’t go wrong with these Burt’s Bees favorites, great for guys and gals of all ages. Quality products, high ratings and under $10 to finish off your stocking gifts.

And that’s a wrap, folks! Hopefully something from these lists caught your eye and helped you finish off the last of your gift shopping for the year. Now it’s time to sit back, relax, and enjoy the season with our loved ones. I’ll be back after Christmas with a fun recap of all the highlights from 2019 including your favorite posts and projects.

Have a warm and wonderful holiday week, my friends! See you soon,

Our Christmas Home (Part 2)

Welcome to Part 2 of our Holiday Home Tour! Last week I shared our living room all decorated for Christmas, which is the heart of our home and where we currently spend most of our time.

If you’re joining from the blogger holiday home tour and new here, it’s nice to meet you! My husband and I designed and built this home over the past year, moved in in June and had our first child in August. Needless to say we’ve had our hands full over the past few months, but we’ve been trying to settle in and make this house feel like a home in time for baby’s first Christmas.

We’re also hosting both of our families this year, so I’ve been slowly decking the halls to make our home feel extra special. Holiday decorating is my absolute favorite, and while the house is far from finished, we’ve done our best to make it feel cozy and inviting.

Real pine garland doesn’t do so well in the Florida heat, so I found these affordable 9′ garlands and draped two around our front door.

Inside the foyer, I wrapped another faux garland over the stair railing and adorned it with a red velvet bow and bells. The lantern pendant is a Wayfair find (on sale!).

We also installed these simple wood coat hooks that match the stain of our front door and fit the style of the home perfectly. These are such a great deal and easy to install:

The entryway opens up to our living room and dining area.

We’ve been using three different sets of mismatched dining chairs since moving in, and last week I finally replaced them all with a matching set of parsons chairs. I spent months searching for the right ones, and I’m glad I took my time because these are so perfect!

They’re available in several colors and I ordered the moss green, which is a beautiful deep earthy tone. Everything else in the house is neutral, so I wanted to pull in a new color (dark green is my favorite lately). The fabric is soft and textured (it feels almost like a woven velvet) so it’s durable and kid-friendly. The biggest selling point for me was the price point though—only $55/chair shipped! Can’t recommend these enough if you’re shopping on a budget.

The large dining table was a wedding gift from Lucas’ parents and is one of our favorite and most used pieces in the house. We keep it fully extended to 9′ and it has already hosted more dinner parties and game nights than we can count. Psst—it’s on sale right now and $200 off, such a good investment!)

We’re hosting Christmas dinner at this table so I’ve started unpacking my festive dishes and decor. I grabbed a couple of these juniper garlands and added faux berries for the centerpiece, and brought out my vintage brass candlestick holders & black tapered candles for a moodier look.

The black linen napkins are a Target clearance find, and the black and gold flatware was a Christmas gift last year (found here on Amazon). They feel so fancy and I love entertaining with them!

I also picked up a couple sets of these stoneware salad plates, which have a cool handmade look. I’m all about mixing styles, so we’ve got a traditional-rustic-glam theme this year 🙂

Our gallery wall was installed just last month and displays a handful of photos taken from our travels. The wall is right in the center of our home and can be seen from the living, dining room and kitchen. It’s personal touches like these, meaningful objects and mementos that tell a story, that are the most special part of any home.

Our new fireplace mantel is just steps away from the dining room. We plan on finishing it with an electric fireplace insert soon so we can enjoy it this winter (if it ever drops below 70° again!)

Just a few more small touches of Christmas around the house, like this tree and green hand towel in the powder bath (tree is from Ikea years ago).

And one of my favorite things to do each year to get in the spirit—we changed out our bed sheets for festive plaid (sheet set from HomeCentric).

And that wraps our 2019 holiday home tour! Something tells me this will be the best Christmas yet…

I hope you enjoy the season with the ones you love most! Merry Christmas and thanks for stopping by 🙂

Make sure to pay a visit to the other inspiring homes on the tour with me today!

Shades of Blue Interiors    –    Wild Flower Home Blog    –    The Nester    –    Oscar Bravo Home
Rosemary and ThymeJenna Sue Design AlmafiedOur Vintage Nest


Our Christmas Living Room

‘Tis the season to wait til the last minute and then do a Christmas decorating blitz because you’re juggling too many projects and babies 🥴 It’s the most busy wonderful time of the year!

I picked up this mantel on Facebook Marketplace last week on a whim to have somewhere to hang our stockings, and fell in love with the idea of a fireplace in our living room after refinishing it (using Maison Blanche‘s Wrought Iron and matte varnish).

We’ll get an electric insert and make it a permanent fixture soon!

When I last posted about our living room, I was just about to paint this antique sideboard black (the same color as the fireplace). Isn’t it lovely? The cat found her place in the room as the accessory I didn’t know I needed.

The gilded mirror and candelabra are also secondhand finds. Every room needs something vintage 👌

And now for my favorite corner of the room…

This was the tree we had last year, a bit small for this space but wasn’t worth the trouble of getting a new one (next year I’ll have more time to prepare!)

I wanted to try something different this year, inspired by the arrival of our sweet little Esmé Rose. I found these inexpensive flower garlands on Amazon (Black Friday sale, woohoo!) and strung six of them throughout the branches. The woven tree collar is from Target, pinecones & ribbons were DIY ornaments I’ve had for a long time and they continue the natural, feminine theme of the tree.

I also found this handcrafted angel topper on Amazon and thought it was the perfect way to represent our little angel. We’ll tell her how we bought it for her first Christmas, and she’ll be able to hang onto it as a keepsake (it will be pretty as tabletop decor if/when we no longer use it on the tree).

She won’t remember this Christmas, but it’s the one I’ve been looking forward to my entire life. I love that she’ll have these photos forever.

A softer, natural look was the approach I took for the entire room. Lots of greenery, simple whites and ivory ribbon.

You may have also noticed a new addition to this room—we finally have curtains! Lucas and I hung them just a few days ago. They’re custom made from Barn & WillowBelgian flax linen in natural.

Oh my, I’ve never had curtains this luxurious before. I went with the two pinch pleat for a crisp, tailored look and skipped the lining so they’re soft and flowy. There are four panels for the three large windows, and one panel for each window flanking the armoire (I hung them with Ikea curtain rods).

Psst—my favorite rug of all time is back in stock on Amazon and the price dropped! Jump on it now before it sells out again.

The room still isn’t 100% complete, but these drapes certainly make it feel finished and much cozier. What are we still waiting for, you ask?

One of our chairs arrived from Six Penny (it’s perfect!) but the other is MIA, so we’re still waiting on it to arrive. I’ll share more about them in a future update once they’re both here. Hopefully it makes it by Christmas so there’s room for the whole family to gather…

This mantel, though—the most perfect happy accident. So glad I came across it!

Soon there will be a fireplace insert, and something hanging above it on the wall, but a cute baby will do for now. It actually makes a great spot for a photoshoot (complete with outfit changes, of course).

I don’t even have to train the cat anymore, she just takes notice when the camera comes out and knows what to do.

This sheepskin rug from Article also makes a great backdrop for cute babies…

Sorry can’t help myself. IT’S HER FIRST CHRISTMAS!

Not sure how to follow up that last one so here’s a few more with the early morning Christmas tree glow… my favorite time of day.

This room gets the best morning light.

I swear I didn’t pose her under here, she saw the camera come out and stayed for like 20 minutes. PS—those juniper stems are faux!

The tree and garlands are faux too, but the window wreaths are real (I grabbed them last minute from the grocery store). Nothing like the smell of fresh pine to make it feel like Christmas (even in Florida!)

The garnet red velvet cushions are from Article and they coordinate so well with my McGee & Co pillow. Loving the deep reds & greens right now, especially this time of year.

And that just about does it for our Christmas living room tour (if you missed any sources, you can find them all in this post). I really love the way the space is coming together, and just in time for this special season.

Feeling present and grateful a little more this year. We are so incredibly blessed.

More holiday decor, coming up next!

Riverside Retreat Kitchen Updates (Part 4)

Truth be told, I was hoping this would be the kitchen reveal post and not another progress update, but this renovation has not been quick and easy (are kitchens ever?) Make sure to check out Part 1, 2 and 3 if you’re just tuning in!

The biggest reason this has taken so long is because we decided to do the majority of the work ourselves (meaning Lucas working mostly by himself there at night while I watch the baby) and there’s a lot of custom details that we’re figuring out as we go.

When we left off in Part 3, the backsplash tile had just been installed, the cabinet doors were in between coats of paint, and we were working on the range hood.

One evening we left Esmé with the grandparents and had ourselves a little wallpaper date night. Remember my crazy idea to wallpaper the range hood with grasscloth?

We used finish grade 3/4″ plywood for the build, just in case the wallpaper didn’t work and we’d need to paint it instead.

I shared live updates on Instagram of the process (nothing too detailed—it was only two pieces of wallpaper and the easiest install we’ve ever done!)

This particular paper is the best because the pattern runs vertically down the roll, which means the joints are horizontal and you don’t see any seams—unlike all the other grasscloth I found! We left a little extra at the bottom to fold under the trim and prevent it from peeling up over time.

Then we had a decision to make—to crown or not to crown the hood? Most of you were in favor, but I wasn’t convinced we should interrupt the clean top edge with white trim.

We gave it a shot without the crown, and I think it was the right call!

It looks cleaner this way, don’t you think?

The painted white 1×2’s at the bottom finish it off and add a layer of protection from any steam/grease coming from the stovetop below.

And on that note, the wallpaper is textured but it’s vinyl and super wipeable/easy to clean. I have zero worries about that part—but we’ll see how it holds up over time!

The crown molding was also added to the custom fridge surround. Here’s how it looked after installing the new fridge (which took a lot of shimming to get straight, #oldhouseproblems!)

Another progress shot of the trim. It was essentially just putting pieces of a puzzle together, one by one.

Crown was the finishing touch:

Everything was painted Valspar’s Ultra White in satin (off the shelf white with no color added) which is the closest match I found to the Ikea cabinet doors.

A couple weeks ago Lucas noticed a pretty big leak in the corner by the fridge. He pulled the fridge out to check the water lines and everything was fine (and it’s dry around the fridge), so we think it’s coming from behind the wall. The leak hasn’t spread so it appears to have been a one time occurrence. We’ll be putting this problem on hold until after the reveal, then cutting out a section of the wall to investigate. Oh the joys of renovation!

The pantry cabinet was another troublesome area. We had to find the best way to match up the green cabinet to our white upper cabinets, while dealing with crooked ceilings and uneven gaps (that vertical piece of green trim was uninstalled/reinstalled a few times…)

This will be where we keep the microwave and also our broom/mop storage, so we’ll have to customize the shelving to make room for it all.

One small success story: the pendant light! Smooth sailing with this install and it looks great (psst, the light is 15% off right now)

The ceiling fan was another complication-free install. I normally wouldn’t go for a fan in a kitchen, but as explained in previous posts, this house is not the most energy efficient and this room gets extra toasty with the west facing window. A fan was necessary, and it’s small and simple enough that I don’t think it takes away from the aesthetic at all in person (plus the price is so low!)

Our sink and faucet went in next… notice something a little off?

Yeah… that faucet is definitely too small for the 33″ sink. I didn’t look closely enough at the height and assumed it’d be just fine, but I was wrong. I’ve since ordered a more appropriately sized faucet (in the same champagne bronze finish I love so much) so we’ll be swapping that out soon.

But our new black windows are looking pretty sharp (ignore the unpainted walls and view into the messy laundry room):

These are metal so we used regular latex paint (SW Tricorn Black). They’re the original 70+ year old windows and they aren’t in the best shape, so cleaning them up and a couple fresh coats of paint goes a long way (one day we’ll replace them all as the budget allows).

Now is when we start to get to the fun part of putting the kitchen back together! The cabinet doors had ample time to cure—they were upstairs in our bonus room for a few weeks. It took some adjusting to get the spacing right, but here’s the first set of drawers…

Here’s how they look from the inside. So satisfying to finally see these installed!

You can see the 2×4 blocks on the floor two photos above—those are braces for our custom toe kicks. I’ve always wanted to try this baseboard style, so we skipped the snap-on Ikea toe kick and added inexpensive primed pine 1×6’s (ripped down to fit) instead.

The floors are not perfectly level and the gap under the cabinets is uneven around the room, so the height of each board had to be measured and ripped down separately.

The gaps still aren’t perfect, so we plan to add base shoe molding along the bottom to finish it off.

See the dishwasher to the right of the sink? We opted for the panel-ready Ikea Spolad (during their kitchen sale) to minimize the look of appliances and streamline the cabinetry. Sounds nice, right?

Except the dishwasher is deeper than the cabinets so it sticks out about 3/4″ past the other doors. So frustrating! We’re going to Ikea this weekend to ask them WTF. Unfortunately there’s nothing we can do, so I’ll have to be okay with it.

In order to have future access to the dishwasher (in case of any repairs) we decided to split the toe kick into two sections, with two screws to access the dishwasher side.

You can see the screws up close but they aren’t distracting (they still need to be painted green).

While the dishwasher was a fail, the stove is in and looks great—and I just noticed it’s 47% off right now! We paid $1994 so this is a crazy good deal (sale ends tomorrow!)

Here’s another angle of this side. Originally I intended to paint the sides of the pantry cabinet green as well, but these are melamine foil Ikea cabinet boxes, not exactly paint-friendly. We could try lightly sanding (maybe?), priming and painting, but there’s still a very high likelihood of the finish scratching off and that would be a nightmare to deal with (especially in a rental). I don’t think it’s worth it in this scenario—especially with how behind we are on our timeline. Plus, it doesn’t look as bad as I thought it would.

In other news, I’m loving the way these handles look (they’re on sale right now, too!)

I’m starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel…

There’s still a handful of things left to do—including installing shelves around the window, replacing the faucet, adding base shoe molding, painting, and fixing that pesky water leak.

Here’s the other side of the kitchen, in case you were wondering. I think we’ll be DIYing a large chalkboard on this empty wall.

Here’s the fourth wall (with the water leak). We still need to paint the walls and baseboards, and also replace the door to the laundry room to match the rest of the house (this may have to happen after the reveal).

There isn’t much counter space in here so it makes sense to add an island, but it has to be small and most importantly, budget-friendly. After lots of searching and brainstorming, I negotiated this table down to $50 on Letgo.

In order for it to be the right height (kitchen islands are typically counter height) I elevated the table by adding 4″ caster wheels:

And then painted it my favorite color—black, of course!

I gave it three coats of Maison Blanche‘s Wrought Iron (the same black paint I use on all of my furniture) and will be sealing it with their satin varnish. I’m also eyeing these $50 bar stools to keep underneath for seating. And everything will sit atop my favorite rug of all time, which was just delivered last night. I can’t wait to be done with this renovation already!

And now you’re all up to speed on where we are at. This is the busiest time of year for us between my shop orders, Lucas working longer hours at his day job, Christmas decorating, spending every night and weekend on this kitchen renovation, and full time parenting a three month old who doesn’t sleep through the night. I’m really looking forward to the calm of that last week of the year when the world unplugs to enjoy the holidays.

Hopefully, this will actually be the last kitchen update before the reveal 😬 We’re like Santa’s elves over here, trying to make it all happen before 2020!

Next up: Christmas at the Heights House, Part 1. If you aren’t already, make sure to follow me on Instagram for live updates as we jump back and forth between projects! ‘Tis the season…



Favorite Things of 2019

Every year I like to do a roundup of my favorite tried and tested products (you can see 2018’s list here, and check out my Amazon collection of decor and tools here).Rather than your typical gift guide, these are the items I’ve purchased and used myself this year that I’ve enjoyed the most. Most of these are new discoveries, and they’re all products I can recommend without hesitation!

I’ve grouped them into three different categories: Décor, Life + Home, and Baby. For each item I’ve included a brief explanation about our experience with it and why we love it. I hope you can find something from this list to try for yourself, or use as inspiration for gifts for friends & family (especially those harder to shop for!) We’ll definitely be buying a few of these as Christmas gifts ourselves 🙂

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1. Faux olive tree

You may have seen me review this tree in my Instagram stories (saved to my Living Room story highlights if you want to check it out) but after searching for many months, I’ve finally found my go-to faux tree. It looks great in our living room and quite natural, but the best part is the insanely low price and the fact that it comes in three different sizes (including 8′ tall for our high ceilings). The downside is that it’s ALWAYS sold out so you have to act fast (you can sign up for email notifications when it comes back). I’m currently waiting on the 84″ to come back in stock for the Riverside Retreat. If you can’t wait that long, this one seems like a decent alternative.

2. LED Picture Light

Here’s another one that took me a long time to find, because for some reason these picture lights are insanely expensive. This was the only one I found that was stylish, the right size AND fit my budget (and was available in brass). We have three of these installed on our dining room gallery wall (hardwired), they put out the right amount of light and look much more expensive than they really are. Full disclosure: I bought these when the house was still under construction, and now that the room is almost complete, I don’t think the brass is 100% right for the space. I’ll be giving these an aged brass makeover soon, so stay tuned!

3. Linen sofa

If you read my budget linen sofa roundup post, you’ll recognize this one as the one I bought for our living room! You can see photos of it in action and my review in this post. It’s my favorite piece of furniture in our home but sadly, it’s out of stock at the moment (though expected to be back at some point if you can wait). If you can’t wait, I shared over 20 other similar sofas here so you can find “the one”.

4. Amber bottles 

Gone are the days of trying to find and constantly replace your used soap bottles with something pretty and non-plastic. I spotted these when searching for hand soap our guest bathroom earlier this year, and ended up using them in the following three bathroom remodels. I bought a large jug of hand soap and refill each as they’re getting low—super easy! You can fill them with anything (lotion, oil, shampoo, conditioner, washes) and use them in the kitchen and laundry room. Take it a step further and personalize them with labels (find them cheap on Amazon or Etsy, or DIY your own—stocking stuffer idea!) These are perfect for guests, a great way to save on plastic waste, and amber glass will never go out of style.

5. French oak floors

I get questions about the flooring in our house probably more than anything else, and for good reason—they’re gorgeous! I found these french oak engineered wood planks at Lowe’s and they were installed early this year (one of the most exciting construction days!) The price is very reasonable for the look/quality and after putting them to the test this year, they’ve exceeded our expectations. The matte wire brushed finish hides everything and stands up to plenty of abuse without any signs of wear. They’re pretty much the perfect floors.

6. Refillable shower bottle set

Similar to the amber soap bottles, this refillable shampoo, conditioner and body wash set replaces your mismatched bottles and keeps your shower niche looking clean and clutter-free. I bought these for the new master bathroom at our Riverside Retreat vacation rental, and will be buying more for our other bathrooms. It’s another small switch that can make a big impact in guest bathrooms, or even in your own shower if you only use a few products.

7. Loloi Layla rug

This rug is at the top of my list for favorite décor find of 2019. It’s exactly what I envisioned for our living room, and looks/feels even better in person (see my full review in this blog post). I’d get one for every room in our house but that’d be a little weird… though I did get another one for our kitchen in the Riverside Retreat. I can’t get enough of it!

8. XL Waffle weave shower curtain

This was a pleasant surprise after scouring the internet for a long (8′) nice quality affordable waffle weave shower curtain (I refuse to buy standard height shower curtains, just say no!) The only other one I know of in existence is this one at BB&B, but it was out of stock when I needed it. I took a chance and found an alternative on Amazon for half the price, and it paid off! It may not be exactly the same quality as the more expensive model, but it fits my needs just fine and I bought one for both the main bathroom and master bathroom at the Riverside Retreat (and wouldn’t hesitate to buy again!)

9. Cloe tile

If you’ve spent any time on Instagram this year, you’ve surely seen the Cloe tile pop up in your feed. It has been all the rage lately and I’m really not surprised. It has a high end, handmade look at a reasonable price point, is available in an array of colors and two different shapes, and is neutral and classic enough to go with any style while adding just the right amount of interest. I used it in baby blue in our recent Blue Lagoon bathroom, and again in white in our kitchen remodel at the Riverside Retreat. It’s my new go-to subway tile!

10. Sherwin Williams Accessible Beige

This is my personal 2019 Color of the Year. I’ve finally found my “perfect greige” and had no hesitation using it on all of the trim in our house, as well as our master bathroom walls. I think it looks great in every room, in every type of lighting, and it’s soft and neutral enough that I don’t have to worry about using other colors that won’t clash with it. Accessible Beige for life.

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1. Blurb books

I started our first family photo album in 2017 after hearing great things about Blurb books. There’s something about a tangible book that makes your memories feel more permanent, more special. It’s now our family tradition to make one book per year, and having the collection on display is a great way to relive those stories with friends and family. We keep ours on the coffee table and find them to be a fun conversation starter, and the fact that I can personalize the covers to look exactly like I want is icing on the cake. I shared a quick video review in my Living Room Instagram story highlights if you want to see how ours turned out. I always wait for a sale to order, and right now they’re 50% off for Black Friday which is their biggest discount of the year!

2. Wooster short angle brush


This isn’t a new find and if you’ve followed me for any amount of time, you’ve probably seen me recommend this—and it’s worth repeating! This is the brush that allows me to cut in and get smooth lines without using painter’s tape. I use it for painting furniture too, and really anything else. The best part? It’s under $6! I buy a six pack to have extras on hand. It makes a great stocking stuffer for hard to shop for folks (we’ll be buying some for family this year!)

3. Dremel Multi-Max

This is one of those “how did I live so long without it?!” tools. We finally got one this year, and it has solved more problems than we can count. From slicing off old nails and screws to cutting baseboards and sanding grout, it’s such a handy little tool that you can do so much with (and there’s lots of different attachments for any job!) Another great gift for the DIYer in your life. PS—you can see all of the tools we use in my Amazon tool kit.

4. Self Drilling drywall anchors

Once you use self drilling drywall anchors, you’ll never go back to the standard crappy plastic anchors. I’m actually embarrassed it took me so long to start using these—they’re so much better in every way! No more pre-drilling a perfectly sized pilot hole and hammering a plastic anchor in, only to have it bend in half or push through the drywall. With these anchors, you simply screw it into the wall (you don’t even need a power drill, though it would make it easier). No switching bits or other tools, no drywall mess, and they’re strong and secure. Seriously, do yourself a favor and order a box of these now.

5. Rub ‘n Buff

Move over, spray paint—Rub ‘n Buff is the new gold in town. I tried these out for the first time this year, using them to create an aged gold finish on wood knobs for our powder bath vanity, wall hooks and dresser pulls in the nursery. They’re labeled as a wax, and have a thick powdery paint consistency that gives any surface a realistic gold metal look (a little goes a long way!) They’re easy and fun to work with, much better than spray paint for smaller projects. I bought a set of five different golds to experiment with, and I’ll be using them on my sconce light makeover next (this time with a blog tutorial).

6. Alexa

I dedicated an entire blog post to our smart home features, and Alexa is at the center of it all. We made the switch last Christmas and our lives have been better for it. It’s so convenient to have everything on voice command or controlled with a few phone taps. We’ve streamlined our home (door locks, lights, sound system, video, thermostat, etc) and will continue to do so as more features are added. Our main hub is an Echo Spot in the kitchen, and we also keep an Echo Dot in our bedroom and the nursery. The Dots are a great way to get started if you’re new to smart home technology, especially now during their Black Friday sale when they’re half off! Whether you’re team Alexa or not, voice is the future and it’s here to stay 😉

7. Eight Dates book

A few months ago I discovered this marriage research author after hearing him speak on a podcast, and was intrigued enough to check out his latest book. It’s designed to strengthen and deepen your relationship through a series of eight dates, each focused around a key topic with specific questions and exercises to follow. I love the idea of holding ourselves accountable to make each other a priority, especially at this stage in our lives with a new baby, where it’s more important than ever to stay connected. We recently completed the first date and it was the most meaningful quality time we’ve spent together this year. We both look forward to these dates so much now! We plan on gifting a few of these books this year as it’s another great gift/stocking stuffer for couples at any stage in their relationship.

8. Keyless entry/smart locks

Of all the technology we’ve adapted this year, keyless entry has been the most useful. We took it a step further with smart locks, which we can control from anywhere via our phone, but just the benefit of eliminating keys is worth it. Fumbling through your purse looking for keys every day gets old, am I right ladies?! This problem can be eliminated for under $50, as there’s so many options on the market right now. We use the Schlage Smart Sense Deadbolt (above) at the Riverside Retreat and Emtek EmPowered smart locks at the Heights House. Both are great options and essentially do the same thing. Give yourself the gift of convenience and upgrade to keyless entry, you will NOT regret it!

9. Smart Plug

One fun recent discovery are Smart Plugs/switches. We got one from Legrand last month to use with our coffee maker so it could turn on via voice command, and now we’re using it as a timer for our Christmas tree. It connects to Alexa or Google, and you can control the switch via voice or app, and set it on a schedule (along with other lights/accessories in your home). It plugs into any outlet, and you can plug any device into (lamps, fans, curling irons, etc) which gives you the ability to control that device. Pretty cool, right? You can check out my full review of this along with all of our other smart light features in this blog post. Tip: Amazon has their own version for only $25. These make a great and unexpected stocking stuffer for anyone with a smart home (we picked up one for a family member!)

10. Handheld fabric steamer

I’ve owned this bad boy for a couple years now, and will never go back to a clunky and time consuming iron + ironing board. I use it to de-wrinkle curtains, bedding and furniture just as much as clothing—it’s lightweight, heats up in seconds and is super convenient to take around the house. I consider it a necessity at this point (especially for $40!) but don’t take my word for it—check out the nearly 3,000 4.5 star ratings on Amazon (it’s also 20% off right now!)

11. Cranium

Cranium is our go-to for game night with friends, and we always end up playing into the wee hours of the morning. It’s great for groups (we play with 6+ people) and guarantees hilarious moments as you try to draw, sculpt, hum and act out phrases for teammates to guess (sometimes with your eyes closed, or using players body parts as props!) We laugh until we cry every time. It’s rated for ages 16+, but I also just bought the “Dark” version and can’t wait to try it out for our next game night.

12. Ring doorbell

We have a Ring doorbell for each house (regular version for the Riverside Retreat, and Pro for the Heights House) and it’s worth every penny and more. From being able to talk to guests at our front door remotely, to checking on package deliveries, to using it as a video security and monitoring system when you’re away—the benefits are plenty. I shared a review in this blog post if you want to see how we’ve been using it. With Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales going on, now is the time to buy!

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1. Baby Bjorn cradle

I spent more time searching for the perfect bassinet before Esmé was born than any other baby item. What sold me on this (apart from the minimalist design) was the fact that it was super lightweight and you can rock it. It was a close call between this and the Snoo, but in the end, cost was the deciding factor. I actually did end up purchasing the Snoo when it went on sale while in the throes of one-too-many sleepless nights, but there wasn’t really a noticeable difference in overnight sleep so we went back to the Bjorn. The portability has proven invaluable, as we can pack it up with us when we go visit friends/family for a while. And I can’t imagine not being able to easily rock her back to sleep every time she wakes during the night—that feature has been so helpful! Eventually she’ll outgrow this and transition into her own room and crib, but for now it has worked quite well for us as a bedside sleeper.

2. Baby Bjorn bouncer

“Bouncer, swing or both?” was the big debate, and after reading many reviews, we opted to try out the Baby Bjorn bouncer. It took Esmé a few weeks to grow into it, but now she is perfectly content and happy hanging out here, watching us as we cook, eat and clean around the house. When she’s not sleeping, on her play mat or being held, she spends most of the day in her bouncer. We love that it’s lightweight so we can easily take it from room to room. I give her teethers, toys to play with and bottles while in her bouncer (she can already feed herself!) which keeps her occupied. It has worked out so well that I don’t think we’ll need to get a swing at all, which is a relief because those things are a bulky eye-sore!

3. Hanes Flexy bodysuits

It has been a challenge to find form-fitting, cute and affordable clothes for our petite girl. I don’t want to spend a fortune on something she’ll only wear a few times no matter how adorable it is, so Esmé has spent the majority of her life in boring basic onesies. Now that it’s cooler outside, I went on the hunt for long sleeved onesies and thought I’d give these a try. The fabric is soft and stretchy and they fit her perfectly! The size is labeled 0-6m, so she’ll be able to wear them for several more months before she outgrows them (unlike all of her other non-stretchy cotton onesies). You also can’t beat the price—I just wish they came in more colors/patterns!

4. Lovevery Play Gym

It’s not the cheapest play gym out there, but I think this one is worth every penny. First, it’s not an eye sore, so I don’t worry about trying to hide or move it into another room when guests come over. It’s sustainably designed by experts and includes several activity sections to promote learning using all of baby’s senses, at every stage of their development. It also includes flash cards and a parent guide book with exercises for babies at different ages. We use it for tummy time each day and Esmé loves staring at herself in the mirror in it. I can easily justify the cost, knowing she uses it daily and will get at least a couple years worth of valuable learning from it.

5. Wubbanub

About a month after she was born, Esmé lost interest in all pacifiers—until I introduced the wubbanub a few weeks ago. I don’t know what it is about this thing, but she’s hooked. It immediately calms her down and soothes her to sleep, and there’s nothing more adorable than watching her hug the bunny tightly to her chest as she dozes off. When she wakes at night, I’m able to quickly settle her back down by popping the wubbanub back in her mouth, and I think the stuffed animal helps it stay in easier than a traditional pacifier. I know every baby is different, but this has become one of our parenting survival must-haves.

6. Swivel Glider

Another item where months of searching paid off. You may have seen photos of it in our nursery reveal, and I also shared a video review of it in my Nursery story highlights on Instagram. A few months later and I’m loving it—the smooth glide/rocking motion, the ottoman with storage and of course, the way it looks in the nursery. Still my choice for best glider on the market under $400!

7. White noise machine

I held off on buying this when she was born because I figured we could just use a phone app or Alexa to play white noise, but NO. Trust me when I say you’ll need one of these everywhere you go… in the car, at the store, walking around the house trying to get your baby to sleep. Honestly if it weren’t for the white noise machine, Esmé would probably never sleep. That’s a little dramatic, but she refuses to fall asleep on her own and this is the only thing that saves us. For every nap and bedtime, we have to turn this on and rock her until she gets sleepy. We charge it up every couple days and it’s good to go for a while. There are several different white noise/sleep sounds to choose from, and it’s also Bluetooth enabled so you can use it as a speaker for your phone (which we never do, but it’s an option). There’s tons of similar white noise speakers on the market and I’m not loyal to any in particular, but this is the one we use and it’s nice because it’s super tiny and portable. Another parenting essential in my book!

8. Diaper bag set

I put this diaper bag on my baby shower registry and it’s one of my favorite and most used gifts. It’s stylish, comes with everything you need (including a changing pad) with easy to access pockets, durable/wipeable and it’s just the right size without being too bulky. And it’s only $40! Heck, even without a baby I’d use this as a purse. I take it everywhere I go and plan on using it for years into the toddler/kid stage.

9. Magic Merlin Suit

This was a gift from a mom friend who swore by it. It is used to help babies transition out of swaddling, and gives them a cozy secure feeling to help them sleep. The first time we put Esmé in it she fell asleep pretty much instantly, and slept like a dream for the next day. Unfortunately she regressed back into her poor sleep pattern and we went back to swaddling, until we decided to stop for safety reasons. At 10 weeks old we tried the suit again (this time it fit her a little better) and she slept through the night for the first time, 4 nights in a row! It truly was magic. Unfortunately, Esmé entered her third developmental leap shortly after and went back to poor sleep, but she still sleeps better in this suit than being swaddled. It’s also still too big for her and her feet get stuck at the bottom sometimes, but so far this has worked the best so we’re sticking with it. If you read the reviews online you’ll find thousands of parents singing its praises, so it’s something I’d recommend to every parent! Like anything else, not every baby will love it, but at $40 it’s absolutely worth a shot.

10. Vava night light

A middle of the night essential, this little nightlight is always within arms reach on my night stand. It illuminates with a quick tap and gently dims/illuminates when you hold your touch. It’s baby safe, lightweight and pretty much unbreakable (I’ve dropped it more than once!) and runs for weeks on a single charge. We keep it on the dimmest setting so there’s just enough light for a feeding without waking everyone up, and once she moves to the nursery I’ll keep it near her crib. It’s color changing, too, which we don’t normally use but it’s a fun feature. For only $20 I’d say it’s a must have for the newborn phase. They also have a newer version here (only $15 for Prime members).

Alright friends, that concludes my roundup of my most loved, most used and most recommended finds of 2019. I hope you’ve found at least one new favorite in this list, or at least a few gift and stocking stuffer ideas! Our family is keeping it simple this year and doing a couples gift exchange so we won’t be going crazy trying to shop for everyone. I love this tradition and plan to stick with it—so much less stressful! What about your family? Do you give and receive lots of gifts every year or keep it minimal? I’m sure things will change once Esmé is old enough to know what’s going on, but for now, we’re enjoying the slower paced holidays.

Happy shopping, and happy Thanksgiving to my American friends! I’ll be sharing my Black Friday & Cyber Monday finds over on Instagram so if you’re looking for sales, make sure to follow me there over the next few days!

Linen + Slipcovered Sofas under $2k Roundup

Finding the right sofa can be a daunting task as it’s one of the most used pieces of furniture and biggest investments for your home.

There’s usually hefty price tags attached to these dream sofas you see on your favorite designers’ Instagram pages, but fortunately, getting this high end look doesn’t have to be expensive!

Im my recent search for the perfect sofa for our new living room, I had strict criteria. It had to be just the right size (95-100”), an elegant classic style with only one or two seat cushions, slipcovered and easy to clean, natural linen fabric, AND budget-friendly.

It was a tall order to find something that checked all the boxes, but months of searching paid off and I finally found “the one”. Along the way I came across plenty of other worthy contenders that almost made the cut (most were just the wrong size) and saved them to a collection to save you hours of searching! I’ve grouped them into three different price ranges for every budget, and would gladly consider any of them for my own home.

Word of advice: When I sat down to put this blog post together, I found that many of the sofas were sold out/no longer available or the price had gone up (including the one I bought!) My advice to you if you find “the one”—don’t wait to buy! It could go away tomorrow and you don’t want to live with regret on such an important purchase. Most of these stores offer free returns so you could always send it back if it doesn’t work out. Happy shopping!

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1. Madison Sofa

With its modern clean lines, this 84″ sofa is available in over 150 different fabrics with removable, reversible cushions. It has a 5-star rating and you can order free swatches, which is always a huge plus! On sale right now for $978.

2. Brynn Sofa

The most affordable item on this list, the Brynn sofa is only $539 (40% off right now!) The cushions are feather down filled and it features a performance ivory fabric slipcover. 11 reviewers give it 4 out of 5 stars. If budget was the biggest factor, I’d jump on this deal!

3. Knutsford Sofa

The Knutsford sofa is a more traditional style, with its firm seat cushion, tweed upholstery and espresso legs. I love the single bench cushion and shape of the arms, and can see this working in both formal and casual living rooms. A worthy competitor at just $730 with 4.1/5 stars.

4. Montgomery Sofa

Another more more formal option, this classic style sofa stands out with delicate curved arms and turned wood legs. It’s available in over 100 fabrics and has 125 4.5 star reviews with plenty of customer photos!

5. Fairchild Sofa

One of the most popular sofas on Birch Lane with 959 reviews at nearly 5 stars, this plush down filled sofa is the perfect blend of casual and formal. Also available in over 100 different fabrics with free in-home delivery. My favorite part is the arched back detail!

6. Farlov Sofa

Easily the best looking Ikea sofa, in my opinion. The benefit here is that you can test it out in person before you buy. The drawback? It’s only available in a few fabric options.

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1. Chateau Sofa

Look familiar? It’s the sofa I chose! Three months later and I couldn’t be happier with it—it’s everything I wanted and more. Unfortunately it’s no longer available (remember what I said earlier?!) but word on the street is that it will be restocked again next year. Don’t worry, there are plenty of other great options on this list if you can’t wait!

2. Maeve Sofa

Here’s an option with a taller back and arms for those who aren’t into low profile sofas. The included matching cushions are a bonus, and the slipcovered cushions are reversible. Unlike some of the other sofas though, this one is only available in one color option.

3. Myrtie Sofa

With its elegant swoop arms and single seat cushion, the Myrtie sofa has a classic look that can look great with any style. It’s currently on sale but there are no reviews and no fabric samples available, so it’s a riskier move (but Wayfair has a 30-day return policy!)

4. Clausen Sofa

One of the longer sofas at 93″ and on sale for only $1019, you certainly get a bang for your buck with the Clausen! It’s a safe choice with 538 nearly 5-star reviews and plenty of customer photos. There are several fabrics to choose from, but unfortunately it’s out of stock at the moment (expected to return Jan 1 though, so mark your calendar!)

5. Izaguirre Sofa

The gorgeous curved back, single seat cushion and tailored slipcover had me at hello. This is another great deal at $1105 for a full sized 93″ sofa, though it’s only available in three different fabrics (which you can get swatches of before ordering).

6. Dieter Sofa

One of my favorite designs on this list, I love the subtle rolled arm detail which gives the Dieter sofa a slightly more traditional look. It’s a deep and full sized sofa with reversible cushions, available in many different fabric options.

7. Madison Sofa

Another nice option from Wayfair’s custom upholstery line, available in over 150 fabric options. The 94″ Madison sofa features down-blend cushions and has a simple, clean design. There’s 31 reviews with a nearly 5-star rating and real-life customer photos, so it seems to be a safe bet!

8. Carly Sofa Bed

This one comes with an added bonus feature of a pull-out sleeper bed. It’s currently on sale for only $1113, comes in a variety of fabrics with free samples, and has 43 4+ star reviews. It’s the only sofa bed on the list and you can’t beat the price for this size/style!

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1. Calista Sofa

This sofa came on my radar while searching for something within my criteria over 8′ (not easy to find!), and it comes in three sizes—85″, 98″, 110″. It’s the longest sofa on this list, so perfect if you have a large living room. There’s plenty of fabric options to choose from plus free in-home delivery. I’ve never heard of or ordered from this particular site, but they do offer a 30-day in home trial.

2. Rosecliff Heights Sofa

I was drawn to the size (96″), beautiful 100% linen fabric and sophisticated shape of this sofa. It’s currently out of stock but expected to return Dec 12th, so worth bookmarking if it checks your boxes!

3. Laine Dressmaker Sofa

This 100% linen sofa looks like it should be double, if not triple the cost! The swoop arms and tailored pleated skirt give it a sophisticated yet casual look, and others must agree because it’s currently sold out (expected restock date of Jan 1). Worth waiting for if you want a super high end look for less!

4. Wyatt Sofa


I discovered SixPenny earlier this year after seeing their furniture pop up in my Instagram feed, and fell in love with the cozy casual style. Their Wyatt sofa is one of my favorite designs, is available in two sizes and a handful of fabric options. I actually ordered two of their Wyatt chairs for my living room—can’t wait to share them with you soon!

5. Elias Sofa

Another option from SixPenny, The Elias sofa is a mix of modern and traditional with rolled arms and a relaxed fit linen slipcover. Also available in several ready to ship + made to order fabrics.

6. Gabriel Sofa

The third SixPenny sofa on this list, the Gabriel has a unique look with its slim arms and bench cushion that makes it look super high end. It’s one of my favorite profiles on this list and worth looking into if your style is more sophisticated.

7. Theodore Sofa

The Theodore sofa from Z Gallerie reminds me a lot of my Chateau sofa, the only difference being the seat back cushions. This one is available in two sizes, a handful of fabric options and the largest size is currently on sale for $1198 (down from $1599). As always, make sure to read the reviews before ordering!

8. Halle Sofa

I just want to curl up on this sofa and take a nap! Something about the extra deep bench seat, matching cushions and round bolster pillows that give it a perfectly relaxed lived-in look. It has removable slipcovers and only available in one fabric type, but it has 100+ 4.5 star detailed reviews to answer your questions before ordering.

Honorable mentions: Loving this SixPenny Amelia sofa starting at $2099, and Horchow’s Annalise sofa—normally $2079 but on sale today only for $1559! If you’d like to continue the search, I’ve found that Wayfair has the largest selection of sofas overall, and Birch Lane (Wayfair’s sister site) has a nice collection of affordable slipcovered options.

I hope you find this roundup helpful—let me know if you have experience with any of these or if you were able to find “the one” for you in this list!

Up next: another living room update!