My favorite neutral rugs under $200 from Lowe’s

This post is part of a paid collaboration with Lowe’s Home Improvement. All opinions are my own.

It has been a while since my last kitchen update at the Heights House, but the last pieces of the puzzle have finally come together and it’s just about ready for its debut!

When designing this space, I knew right away that the rug would be a key element. The simple shaker style cabinets and neutral color palette would allow for the rug to dictate the overall feeling of the room through color and pattern. When it comes to more permanent choices like cabinets, I tend to go neutral so that I can easily change up the style through more affordable accessories like rugs.

With a blank canvas to work with, I could take this room in any direction so I began my search online at Lowe’s. I’ve ordered rugs through them before and knew they had an impressive selection (literally tens of thousands of options) so I felt confident I’d be able to find something that fit the bill.

First up: deciding on the size—this is always the first step when choosing a rug! I opted for a larger rug in the center rather than a runner in front of the sink, as it felt much more balanced (and once baby starts crawling around it’ll be nice to have a softer area for her to play on while we’re working in the kitchen).

With our floor space measuring 8’ wide, a 5’ rug was perfect to fill the space nicely without crowding it. The length didn’t matter as much—both the standard 7’ and 8’ would work.

With the size determined, I began to narrow down my search criteria. There were over 9,000 options in those two sizes alone, but I wasn’t done narrowing down.

Next, and perhaps most important in my book: price. As much as I love a vintage one of a kind rug, I can’t bring myself to justify spending a fortune when there are so many affordable and stylish options out there—especially when you like to switch up the look of a room as much as I do. I set a max budget of $200, which still gave me over 5,600 results!

Now is when you grab a tall mug of pumpkin spice coffee, put on some music and enjoy a little “me” time (that’s what online shopping is for me, at least 😉)

I spread it out over a few days, but eventually made it through all 131 page results. Normally I’d narrow down by color as well, but I didn’t have a very specific look in mind and wanted to see what caught my eye. My preference was to find something relatively neutral with a subtle (ideally vintage-esque) pattern, but with enough color to contrast with the beige and white and bring a little personality into the room.

After my exhaustive search, these were the top five contenders:

From my experience, rugs are one of the most difficult items to shop for online because they’re not only very tactile objects, but the colors almost always look different on screen than they do in person (even when comparing to the ‘real life’ customer photos).

Just like you’d never want to choose a paint color without putting samples on the wall first, I wouldn’t commit to buying a rug unless I had access to samples first or it had an easy return policy. Fortunately, Lowe’s offers free shipping AND returns, and you can simply return online purchases to your nearest store instead of having to ship them back.

Rather than trying to narrow it down to just one, I thought it’d be fun to share my top five budget-friendly vintage style rugs from Lowe’s. Who’s ready for a rug fashion show?!

Option 1: Allen + Roth Brookford Charcoal/Ivory Rectangular Indoor Handcrafted Area Rug, $198

This wool rug was the thickest and heaviest of the bunch, and super soft underfoot.

The overall color was a bit more beige than how it appears on my monitor, which has somewhat of a green/yellow tint.

It’s a lovely design with a high quality feel, though it has a more traditional look vs the vintage style I’m after, and the beige wasn’t providing much contrast to the cabinets and floors.

Option 2: Safavieh Brentwood Surat Cream/Gray Vintage Area Rug, $80

Coming in as the most affordable option, this rug is on the thinner side (0.3” pile height) but very smooth and soft. The coloring is quite a bit cooler in person (at least in my kitchen) with slate blue-gray and ivory tones.

The polypropylene fibers make the colors shift at different angles—you can see in the first photo it appears to be a very subtle light gray, but the color and pattern really jump out when you’re standing directly above it.

I love the subtle design of this rug and the neutral hues, and it’s a great choice if I’m leaning towards cooler/blue tones.

Option 3: Safavieh Valencia Jiles Gray/Cream Vintage Area Rug, $176

This rug had a similar weight and feel to Option 2 with a 0.25” pile height, though the material is a woven soft polyester. I didn’t notice much of a color shift from different angles, which I like.

The coloring is a neutral gray with green and light brown detailing, which I thought was a nice complement to the beige cabinets.

This rug is definitely neutral enough to last through different seasons/decor styles or move around to other rooms in the future.

Option 4: Safavieh Vintage Mosed Gray/Multi Rectangular Vintage Area Rug, $186

Made with power loomed viscose yarn, this rug is most vintage looking of them all. The fibers are smooth and soft, almost like velvet, so when you rub your hand across it the color will change.

It also looks quite different from every angle, as you can see in the photos. The coloring is bluer in person than the warm gray displayed on my screen, although when I had it unrolled in the living room it read as more of a cool gray.

I really liked the faded vintage pattern, but would have to decide if the blue and lavender tones were the direction I wanted to take for this kitchen.

Option 5: Kaleen Boho Patio Taupe Rectangular Vintage Area Rug, $199

The most expensive of the bunch, this polyester flat weave rug is suited for both indoor and outdoor use.

It’s one of the thinnest at 0.125” pile height, but there are no shiny fibers which means the coloring is consistent at every angle. With the lights on, the rust/burgundy tones are more prevalent in person than depicted online, though at certain times of day it does read as a neutral taupe overall.

This rug was the most realistic looking vintage option, in my opinion, and great for hiding stains. It’s also the boldest color so I’d have to be fully committed to the warmer tones.

And there you have it, a complete review of my favorite neutral rugs at Lowe’s! Which one is your favorite, and which one do you think I chose? I’m looking forward to sharing the winner in the kitchen reveal soon!

Hopefully this post will save you time searching online if you’re in the market for something that won’t break the bank. And since Lowe’s makes it super easy (and free) to return without question, don’t hesitate to order a few rugs (or more) at once—it’s always better to have options than to settle!

Stay tuned for more kitchen updates next week,

Esmé Rose: A Birth Story

Our angel baby took her first breath exactly one week ago, on August 29th at 4:53 am.

Our world has been rocked as the hours and days blend together in the thick newborn fog. The entire experience has been surreal to say the least, and I wanted to write down as much as I could about her birth before it fades from my memory.

At my 39 week appointment I was checked for the first time, and pleasantly surprised to discover I was already 1cm dilated and 50% effaced. I hadn’t been feeling any contractions or cramping, and was hopeful that my body would go into labor on its own before the 41 week induction recommended by my doctor.

40 weeks came and went and I progressed to 75% effaced, but still only 1cm. With family in town and the nursery finally finished a few days later, I was ready to get this show on the road! We tried every trick in the book to get things moving. I was awoken by cramps one night after walking two miles, but by morning they were gone. I had to come to terms with the fact that labor wasn’t going to come naturally.

Stacy Larsen Photography

The day before my scheduled induction, I saw the doctor for one final checkup, ultrasound and NST. I was still at “1-ish” cm, but the baby’s heart rate wasn’t very active on the NST and the doctor recommended we go straight to the hospital to be induced. From the moment she muttered those words, my brain switched over into a whirlwind of nerves and excitement, and I’m realizing now that it will never go back to my pre-pregnancy state.

Stacy Larsen Photography

The hours and days to follow have been a blur to me, but we made sure to have Lucas take notes of the events and timing during the labor process so we could share our story.

On the way to the hospital we stopped back at home for a quick shower and to gather our bags. By 2:30pm we were checked in and anxiously awaiting family to meet us there.

An hour later I settled into my room as they started an IV and monitoring my contractions. I was already contracting every 2-3 minutes on my own (apparently the threat of being induced made my body start cooperating?)

However, I wasn’t feeling anything and the contractions weren’t making me progress. The nurse suggested I try walking around for an hour to see if that would help them intensify, and after being checked at 6pm I was still a “stretchy 1cm” with the baby showing no signs of dropping.

At this time, they decided to start me on cervidil which could be left in for up to 12 hours. The plan was to use this overnight, then switch to pitocin to begin active labor in the morning. The nurse confidently predicted I’d have this baby at 5pm the next day (after two hours of pushing).

Cristina Danielle Photography

Our family was in and out of the room during this time, wishing us luck and telling us they’d be back first thing in the morning to be there for the delivery. My sister stayed with us for a few hours as labor began to record photo and video.

Cristina Danielle Photography

By 7:30pm the contractions started getting uncomfortable, though they still followed the same 2-3 minute pattern on the monitor. I tried to move around as much as I could and keep myself distracted, but even in the rest period between contractions there wasn’t much relief.

At 9:45pm the nurse came in to check me, and I joked that I surely must be at 10cm by now. My heart sunk when she said I was still only around 1.5cm—how many hours of this would I need to endure?

Cristina Danielle Photography

I was given an Ambien to get some rest, but there was no way I could relax for even a minute as the pain intensified into what felt like one continuous contraction with varying levels of pain. I tried bouncing on the birth ball which seemed to provide the most comfort, but the monitor kept losing the baby’s heartbeat in that position so I was told to stay on the bed.

By 11:45pm the contractions were lasting 45-60 seconds every other minute, and the intense pain mixed with the Ambien left me in a daze. I tried to remember the breathing techniques I had learned but it was difficult to stay focused on anything.

Cristina Danielle Photography

At 12:20am I was checked once again, and had finally progressed to 2cm. All along we’d been told I needed to reach 4cm to get an epidural, but the doctor said I had progressed enough at this stage that they could administer it. 30 minutes later I vaguely recall the anesthesiologist entering the room. I held still through a contraction as the epidural was inserted and remember thinking I’d rather take 100 of those than one contraction.

Within minutes, my toes started tingling as I felt my body begin to relax. The pain slowly began to subside, and all I can remember are the lights going dim as I closed my eyes for the first time that evening.

I was awoken at 2:40am to check on my progress, and in less than two hours I had made it to 6.5cm! Things escalated quickly from there, and just 90 minutes later I was complete at 10cm with the baby’s head fully engaged! They broke my water and I was feeling a lot of pressure and pain on my left side, so they called the anesthesiologist back in. He said I had a hot spot which he was able to correct by adjusting the epidural, and once it was working properly, it was time to push!

At 4:30am I pushed with the first contraction, and the baby’s head was immediately in sight. Around 15 minutes later the doctor took over, and I pushed through three more contractions. Esmé Rose was born at 4:53am, weighing 6lbs 13 oz and 20.25″ long.

She had swallowed a lot of fluid and was gone for what felt like forever as they cleared her lungs.

But she was full of life and wonder as they placed her on my chest, and stayed there for an hour and a half.

She nursed right away—I have vague memories of this but was told she nursed for a whole hour. We’re not really surprised though as we saw her practice swallowing at every ultrasound and she constantly had the hiccups in the womb.

I couldn’t imagine laboring without the epidural after six hours of minimal progress. As soon as the pain disappeared and my body could relax, she was in our arms less than four hours later. The night was a blur of pain, emotions and anticipation, but it was all worth it to bring our sweet girl into this world.

This is the first grandbaby on both sides and we’ve all been waiting a long time, so you can only imagine how loved this little one is.

She’s especially stolen daddy’s heart, and he’s been right there with me through every late night feeding, swaddle and diaper change.

We couldn’t have dreamed up a more perfect baby—she truly is an angel.

Now the family is back in California and we begin the process of settling into a new normal. My hormones are still all over the place and the love I feel for this little girl is overwhelming. Having a child truly is watching your heart beat outside of your body.

Esmé Rose LeBlanc, we love you more than you’ll ever know.

PS: In case you missed it, I shared a video of our pregnancy journey earlier this week… enjoy 🙂

The Nursery Reveal

Today is the room reveal I’ve waited weeks, months and years for… and my friends, it was worth the wait! My design dreams have been fulfilled and I can’t imagine a more perfect space for our little princess. Click to watch the reveal below:

Before I share the photos (warning: there are a ton), make sure to get caught up on our progress over the past couple months:

Nursery Design Plan

Nursery Changing Station

Nursery Closet

The Big Nursery Molding Project

Without further ado, our french country forest nursery…

Where do we begin? How about the real MVP of the room—all of the gorgeous molding from Ekena Millwork:

I linked to the exact molding we used in this post, so make sure to check that out for all the details. It truly takes the feeling of this room to another level, like you’re walking into a mini-palace. Fancy millwork for life!

Perhaps my favorite piece of molding in the room is this facia we installed above the closet doors, which makes it look like an armoire. And about these doors—they’re the Chateau bifold doors from Simpson Door Co, which we mounted on individual hinges to swing outwards. The French curves are perfect for this room!

I had the most fun designing this closet.

Where else would I be able to use pink stripes and gold bows? Obviously, I had to take advantage of the opportunity!

Next to the closet is the highly functional changing nook. We planned ahead during construction and had our builder leave this nook open, and I found the perfectly sized vintage dresser that doubles as a changing table.

I refinished it, added a hidden storage shelf on the back wall for diaper supplies, added a seagrass changing basket and scored a sweet vintage mirror for $35.

I also DIY’d this flower mobile using a wreath wire frame and faux flowers from Michaels. I’m thinking this will instill in her a deep love of florals 🙂

If the molding is the key player in this room, the rainforest mural from Rocky Mountain Decals is sure giving it a run for its’ money…

This was the very first thing I picked out for the nursery many months ago, and the jumping off point of the design. It’s peel and stick removable paper which made for an easier install, and even better, a quick removal once we’re ready to take it down (hopefully not for a while!)

The room just came alive after the mural went up. I think I need one in every room…

The hanging macrame bassinet was a registry gift and I still can’t believe it’s only $50! It’s really just a placeholder until I find the perfect crib, which we won’t need for another six months since she’ll be sleeping in a bassinet in our room until then. Maybe I’ll use it as a toy holder in the meantime…

I wrapped a eucalyptus garland around the rope for an extra foresty-touch. The little details matter!

One major nursery must-have, according to my findings, are blackout curtains. Dark rooms are key to making sure baby sleeps well, and I take my sleep very seriously.

I worked with Barn & Willow on these custom extra wide ivory drapes, using their organic cotton fabric which looks like linen up close.

They’re fully lined blackout, super thick and extra luxurious. I even sprung for the 2-pinch pleat style which make them feel so much fancier! I love that they’re neutral and classic enough to stay in this room forever, even as it transitions (I used this gold curtain rod found on Amazon).

One item I spent a lot of time researching was the glider. There are surprisingly few affordable, stylish and functional gliders on the market, and I waited for a month for this one to come back in stock. SO WORTH IT.

It’s extremely comfortable, has a super smooth glide and swivel, has stain and water resistant linen fabric (supposedly) and (my favorite part!) an ottoman with storage. Of course I haven’t had a chance to give it the real-life baby test yet, but after an exhaustive search, I’m gonna make a bold claim that it’s the best ivory/cream glider on the entire internet for under $400.

See that little side table?

A $13 find on OfferUp, refinished in Maison Blanche gold metallic paint and organza wax. Love the way it turned out!

Another find I’m loving is this Wayfair chandelier for only $180:

I was debating between it and two other (much more expensive) options and I’m so glad I went with this one. It’s the perfect size for this room (35″w), has a nice rustic finish and I think the simpler style is a nice contrast against all the fancy millwork.

The braided jute rug is another Wayfair find that I couldn’t be happier with. It’s relatively affordable, exactly as pictured online, and soft enough for baby (isn’t that the sweetest big sister in the window?)

For the back wall, I found these darling baby animal flower crown prints on Etsy and used Ikea frames.

The hooks are vintage replicas I found on Ebay and aged them with rub n buff.

My hormones can barely handle the cuteness right now.

Now that the nursery is FINISHED(!) we are 100% ready for baby to be here in our arms. I’m glad she didn’t come early so we could get everything done, but I’m hoping she comes on her own before we have to evict her.

Last week (before the nursery was finished) we had a last minute maternity shoot with local photographer Stacy Larsen, so I thought I’d share a few photos from that session! It was so nice to get out of my DIY clothes for once and capture these last memories before our lives change forever…

A huge thank you to Stacy for these beautiful photos, we will cherish them forever!

Okay baby girl, the nursery is ready for you. We’re ready for you. 

The Blue Lagoon Bathroom Design

Moving right along to our next project at the Riverside Retreat vacation rental: the master bathroom!

If you’ve been following the progress over the summer, you may remember our plans to add a second bathroom to this house by taking space from the main bathroom and adjacent bedroom (check out this closet addition post for all the details). Here’s the original floor plan:

And what we came up with:

It was a bit of a challenge to design a new layout that would allow for enough space to create a new bathroom with a shower, but not take away too much from the existing bathroom or bedroom. It’s a teeny tiny room, but has everything you need!

Just as I went for a bolder look in the main bathroom, this master suite needed a unique theme of its own. Months ago I stumbled across this gold swan faucet and couldn’t get it out of my head. That sparked the entire design concept…

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

Fun, right?! Definitely a little bolder than I’d go in my own home, but for a funky Florida vacation rental by the river it’s perfect. Bring on the swans and turquoise tile!

As with every project in this house, budget plays a major role so I had to strike the right balance of interesting yet affordable with the design. With a tiny room you can spend more on materials without breaking the bank, so there are a couple splurges here—but it’s those little details that make all the difference.

I found the swan faucet on Amazon for $92 here, though at the moment they only have nickel and chrome in stock. It is available in a slightly larger size here, and I was also able to find the smaller size on Ebay here. It’s definitely a statement piece in the room!

When it came time to choose a vanity, a pedestal sink was really the only option due to the size constraints. But given that it’s a second bathroom and no one will live here full time, it was the perfect solution! I had to find one with the smallest footprint possible, but that still included a little countertop space, and budget-friendly. This Barclay model for $175 met all those requirements:

This pretty scalloped mirror was another budget Lowe’s find at just $66, and I love the way the curves mimic the sink and tie in with the overall swan lake theme—fluid, graceful and elegant.


The most dominant design element in this room, hands down, is the tile. When Bedrosians launched their Cloe line last year, I received samples in the mail and fell in love with the baby blue:

These tiles planted the seed for a water-inspired bathroom, and finding the swan faucet later sealed the deal. The Cloe line has become super popular, but I have yet to see it in baby blue ‘in the wild’ so I can’t wait to try it out! I’ve had the pleasure of working with Bedrosians on a few projects this past year and they’ve graciously agreed to step in as a sponsor again. The entire back wall & shower, along with the lower half of the vanity wall will be covered in this tile (in the subway style, leaning towards a stacked installation).

As for the floor tile, originally I was dead set on using a large format marble look-a-like (to keep costs down) but then I spent too much time wandering the aisles of Floor & Decor and saw this…

I’ve used pebble tile once in the past (remember my master bath reveal circa 2016?) and loved how spa-like it felt. The river rock design seemed like a perfect fit for the theme of this room, and I had to follow my heart, despite the $13/sf price tag:

Fortunately since this is a tiny room, only around 30 pieces were needed to cover the entire floor (shower included) so I didn’t feel quite as bad about shelling out the extra dough—especially since the wall tile is sponsored and I’ve kept costs down elsewhere. Like this $130 shower faucet:

The Delta champagne bronze line has become my go-to for pretty much every bathroom lately. You can’t beat the finish or price, and the fact that it’s a trusted name puts my mind at ease. I was also happy to find this cool pendant light on sale for only $48 at Wayfair:

The curved shape is very swan-esque, don’t you think? This will hang above the mirror rather than a wall mounted sconce. And speaking of swans… I had to incorporate them in artwork somehow. I put my Photoshop skills to use and created a couple abstract prints which I’ll hang in simple wood frames:

Last but not least, the finishing accessories! Apart from the pebble tile, these were the only other splurges but I have no self control when it comes to Anthro home decor. Their Demeter brass towel ring and toilet paper holder is just too good to pass up.

It’s the little things in life that bring the most joy. Also, they remind me of swan feathers.

After the design was chosen, I mocked up the floor plan in Homestyler and used the 3D view to get a better sense of the space (ignore the design/finishings as they’re just a general idea, the program is quite limited in that respect):

In the next bathroom post, I’ll share all the progress photos from demo day to putting up walls and installing tile, and where we’re at now before the big reveal. This has been a fun little project to work on and I’m looking forward to seeing it all come to life!

PS: I published our last vlog before baby, catching up on all the craziness of DIYing and preparing for the big day! Watch it below:

PPS: The nursery reveal was supposed to be this week on baby’s due date, but there was a shipping delay on the last item that needed to be installed so it will have to be pushed back to next week 🙁 Despite this, I still snuck in a quick maternity shoot in the nursery yesterday so I’ll leave you with a little preview…

Stacy Larsen Photography

Riverside Retreat Main Bathroom Reveal

This post is part of a paid collaboration with Lowe’s Home Improvement. All opinions are my own.

Oh happy day, one more room at the Riverside Retreat is officially in the bag!

This project has been over two months in the making—starting with a few setbacks and stalled progress, and ending with a mad dash to the finish line over the past few weeks.  Make sure to go back and check out the Design Plan/demo kickoff post along with my DIY Board and Batten tutorial to see the progression if you haven’t yet.

Meet the “50 Shades of White” Before…

Seriously. Every inch was some shade of mismatched white.

The room was a decent size but we had to reconfigure it and take away space to add a second bathroom, as this house only had one (not gonna cut it with 10 guests in a vacation rental!)

We added two walls to create a master bathroom, as you can see in the new floor plan below (labeled Main Bathroom):

Demo promptly began, and (no surprise) there were quite a bit of plumbing and foundation issues to fix.

We ended up bringing in a second contractor a few weeks ago  to get things moving quicker. Finally, some progress!

And we’ve put in long hours over the last couple weeks installing DIY board and batten, painting, and adding the finishing touches. Finally, our earthy + classic budget bathroom is ready for its debut!

The real MVP here is the gorgeous green, Valspar’s Wilderness.

I love going bold in smaller spaces—making a statement is what design is all about!

My second favorite player is this charming vintage style floor tile. It’s just the right amount of pattern to balance the bold walls and fits in well with our 1940’s home (our installer used a generic white for both the floor and shower tile grout).

There was a big debate on Instagram around what color to paint the new Jeld-Wen door. I couldn’t decide between green or white, and at the last minute I opted to make it same color as all the other doors in the house (SW Loggia). I think it was the right move because it breaks up the green/white and ties in with the other neutral warm accents in the room.

We’re also swapping out all the original door handles with these gorgeous Schlage glass knobs:

But this view? This has to be my favorite.

I scored this schoolhouse vanity light on sale for $76 (it’s still a killer deal even at full price) and the mirror was a $30 secondhand Facebook Marketplace find (it actually came from a Disneyworld hotel).

The Delta Venetian Bronze faucet was another budget-friendly find with great ratings and a simple, classic style.

Recognize this vanity? It’s the same one I used in our Heights House Guest Bathroom but in the 36″ size.

I love this vanity because there’s lots of drawer storage, and you can choose from several colors/sizes/stone tops (I went with the Carrara engineered marble top). FYI—it’s now $100 less than when I purchased it! If you’ve been considering this vanity (or any new vanity), now’s the time to jump on it.

The only modification I made was painting the chrome handles gold (I used black spray paint and gold Rub ‘N Buff to give it an aged patina).

For the shower, I used one of Delta’s most affordable faucets in a matching Venetian Bronze finish (only $130 but it’s low in stock!) and replaced the one-piece tub with a budget-friendly model.

And how lovely is the shower tile? It has a slight color variation and is porous/textured to look like brick. Difficult to capture in photos, but it looks amazing in person and I think it fits in nicely with the earthy/classic style of the room.

One neat addition are these vintage photos of our city.

I Googled local archives of old photos and found our county library website with a huge collection of free downloadable images.

Then a little photoshop manipulation to make them sepia toned, add my own text, and print them out (these are 12×16″ prints in 16×20″ Ikea frames). I think these will be a fun touch for out-of-towners to see a little history of the area.

And the $5 gold hooks that have become a staple in almost every room these days! Can’t beat the price and style.

The only thing we kept from the original bathroom was the toilet (nothing wrong with it) and window, which I painted black. I hung a ready-made bamboo shade and simple 96″ waffle weave shower curtain (new favorite long shower curtain, by the way!)

On the day of the shoot I realized I forgot to order a toilet paper & hand towel holder—oops! Those will be added next 🙂

And that wraps up the Earthy + Classic Budget Bathroom Tour! I’m happy to say that this one turned out pretty much exactly as I had imagined/hoped.

I hope our guests love it just as much as we do!

Sources + Budget Breakdown

Paint: Valspar Wilderness (satin), SW Pure White (eggshell), SW Loggia (semi-gloss)

Floor tile / $288

Shower tile / $730

Tub / $150

Shower faucet / $130

Vanity / $500

Vanity faucet / $160

Vanity light / $76

Mirror / $30

30″ Jeld-Wen door / $130

Door handle / $65

Towel hooks / $23

Picture frames / $85

Window shade / $45

Shower curtain / $27

Curtain rod / $23

Molding & trim / $250

Paint / $40

Total: $2729

Of course this doesn’t take into account any labor costs or labor materials (those numbers unfortunately got convoluted between two different contractors). But if you aren’t doing a complete gut remodel down to the foundation or hiring out the labor, you can easily recreate this bathroom for under $3k with some DIYing and a trip to Lowe’s.

The best part is, you don’t have to compromise on quality—and I’d say the end result is comparable to any $10k+ bathroom I’ve seen!

What do you think about the deep green? It’s probably the boldest wall color I’ve ever used, but this is a vacation rental so I’m not trying to play it safe! Every room will have its own unique vibe—just wait until you see what we have planned for some of the other spaces 😉

Next up: a vlog update, kitchen rug fashion show and the nursery reveal… hopefully all before baby arrives!



The Big Nursery Molding Project

We just conquered a huge milestone in the nursery and I couldn’t wait to share our excitement! If you haven’t been following the progress, make sure to get caught up first:

Nursery Design Plans

Nursery Changing Station

Nursery Closet

As a reminder, here’s how the room looked a couple months ago:

Shortly after completing the closet makeover, a truckload of boxes of fancy molding arrived from Ekena Millwork and we set aside a weekend to tackle as much as possible.

Spoiler alert: I’m not taking a minimalist approach here—I’ve been dreaming about designing this room for years and stockpiling ideas to make it extra special for this sweet girl I’ve waited so long for. Nurseries and kids rooms are one space you can have more creative freedom with and I’m taking full advantage—bring on the decadence!

Starting with the crown molding

I used a tape measure to visualize the size before ordering, but even I was a little taken aback by just how large it was in person. 12″ crown is not something you see every day! Fortunately the size isn’t too overpowering for our 9’4″ ceilings, and makes the room feel even taller.

Before installing, we painted all eight 8′ pieces (SW Malted Milk in satin) because it’s easier to do on a table than above your head while standing on a ladder (especially with all those little details!)

We set up our trusty 12″ Dewalt miter saw and attempted to make the first cut the same way we normally install crown molding… then quickly realized we were in over our heads. The crown was too big for the saw, and there’s no way we could clamp or hold it perfectly still while cutting.

There may have been some hormone-induced tears immediately after this attempt, followed by calls to every local master carpenter I could find. Turns out there’s not many qualified carpenters nearby who had the time or capability to do the job, and the one quote we received came in at over $1000. NOPE.

After wasting a week trying to figure out a Plan B, my sweet amazing talented husband said not to worry, and that he’d figure out a way to make it happen. He then spent nearly every evening after work for the next two weeks pulling off a modern day molding miracle.

I can’t even attempt to share a tutorial for this one (you can find my regular crown molding tutorial in this post). Lucas drew up plans and thought he had the angles figured out, but every corner and angle was different (yes, even with new construction walls!)

The bad cut graveyard says it all.

Apart from the challenge the sheer size presented, the pattern had to be matched up perfectly as well. This resulted in a good amount of waste, and we ran out at the end and needed to order two more pieces (shout out Ekena for being so prompt and understanding!)

Thankfully, this urethane molding is super lightweight and so easy to work with—we’ve used it for tons of projects over the past year and it’s hard to go back to MDF/wood.

I mean… look at this work of art. These pieces didn’t line up at the corners but Lucas was able to file down around the edges and now you can’t even tell. Try doing that with wood!

And any gaps disappear with a little spackle. Pro tip: wet your finger when you apply the spackle and it’ll go on super smooth, making it much quicker and easier to sand later!

A bit of liquid nails on the back…

Followed by a few finish nails is all it takes to secure it.

You can bet we were happy dancing all over the room once the last piece was in. Crown molding expert level status unlocked, VICTORY IS OURS!

With the biggest challenge out of the way, we moved onto the wall molding. I came up with the idea of transforming this wall with classic French inspired wainscoting using panel molding:

I love this option because it requires no modifications of your existing baseboard/trim, and the process is pretty straightforward! This is the same technique we used to frame our wall mural in the Riverside Retreat so I won’t go into detail again as you can find that tutorial here.

This time I chose a simpler trim style, using the Pompeii panel molding and matching corners.

After drawing out the measurements and layout on the computer, we cut the molding to size and started with our center rectangle first.

These pieces are the same lightweight urethane material and attach to the wall just as easy, with a bit of liquid nails and finish nails. The only tricky part is making sure they line up as seamlessly as possible, which means adding shims sometimes since the pattern doesn’t always match up perfectly between pieces.

I really enjoyed this part of the molding process (especially after the crown!) and it didn’t take us long to get our first panel up.

Next one up…

Last but not least!

I spent all day Wednesday painting (whew, that’s an exhausting job at 8.5 months pregnant) but well worth the effort…

Isn’t Malted Milk the dreamiest color?

Moving right along… I wanted to do something fun above the nursery closet door, and found this gorgeous fascia in Ekena’s catalog. I knew it’d be perfect…

We cut it down to size, nailed it up and gave it a couple coats of paint…

OBSESSED. Doesn’t it make the closet look like an armoire? I knew it’d be good but this might be my favorite piece of trim in the whole room.

Finally, it was time for the crowning jewel—the ceiling medallion:

32″ of pure feminine gorgeousness! I painted it white to match the ceiling so it wouldn’t compete with the wall molding. And next came the chandelier—I ended up choosing the budget-friendly Wayfair option after everyone’s input in my Design Plans post!

I like the rustic finish, but may coat it with a bit of gold paint to make it a little more glamorous. We’ll see how it looks when the rest of the room comes together.

Here’s how the room looks right this minute. We’re 75% of the way there!

Our next big project is putting up a wall mural on the back wall, which will happen this weekend.

Then it’s a matter of bringing in the bassinet, rug, glider, curtains, table, mobile, artwork and hooks.

Hoping to get this room photo-ready by mid-next week!

Really cutting it close with this due date here, but I have a feeling baby girl is in no hurry to arrive.

Fingers crossed she stays put two more weeks so we can wrap up a few more projects and maybe relax for a day before she gets here. One can only hope for the perfect timing, right?

One day at a time… tune in next week for the Riverside Retreat bathroom reveal!

DIY Board and Batten Tutorial

This post is part of a paid collaboration with Lowe’s Home Improvement. All opinions are my own.

Kicking off the week with our latest project at The Riverside Retreat, and one of my favorite DIYs! Watch the timelapse tutorial below:

As you know I’ve done my fair share of wainscoting/wall molding treatments over the years, and I’d have to say this board & batten technique is the most beginner-friendly (aka, my recommendation for all you first timers out there!)

We’ve been slowly working on the main bathroom at the Riverside Retreat over the summer, and are now finally at the finishing stages (see the Befores and read all about our plans in this post).

After adding two walls to create a second bathroom on the opposite side, we installed a new tub and shower tile

Along with this cute vintage inspired floor tile:

Finally, it was time to break up the 50 shades of white and give this bathroom some color! But first, a little molding magic in the form of board & batten.

There are many ways to approach this project depending on the look you want, but for this beginner level tutorial I opted to choose the most budget-friendly and easiest to work with materials. Here’s what we used:


1×6 primed MDF (baseboard)

1×4 primed MDF (top board)

1×3 primed MDF (battens)

1×2 primed MDF (top ledge)

(Optional) chair rail molding (to add a little detail)

Caulk, spackleliquid nails, paint

We needed four 8′ lengths of each material to wrap around the room, except for the 1×3 vertical battens—we used 19 of those. Total materials cost including paint: less than $300.


Dewalt miter saw

Bostitch nail gun (we used 2″ nails)

Craftsman air compressor

Zircon stud finder


Tape measure

Let’s get started!

Choose a wall to begin and measure to find the length of your 1×6 baseboard. Keep in mind that you’ll want to miter both edges for a clean 45º joint (you don’t have to miter, but it looks more professional this way).

A quick test fit to make sure it lines up with the edge of the wall…

Perfect! Now, take your stud finder and mark along the wall (or baseboard) at each stud. You want to make sure the baseboards are attached securely to the wall.

Once the stud locations are marked, grab your nail gun (either 16ga or 18ga works) and nail along your marks (I used two nails per stud to be safe). Your nails should be long enough to go through the MDF, drywall and into the studs (2″ is plenty).

Repeat the same process (measure, miter, mark studs & nail) on the next wall.

Don’t worry if your miter joints aren’t perfect (it happens a lot, especially with older houses/crooked walls). You’d be amazed at what a little spackle and caulk can do.

Once you’ve put all the baseboards in, it’s time to move onto your top horizontal piece. First, decide how high you want your molding. This is 100% a personal choice and there is no right or wrong answer, but I prefer taller molding (especially since our ceilings are 9′ high) so I went with a total height of 5 1/2″ feet.

Go ahead and mark the wall where you want the bottom of your horizontal piece to rest. I marked a few different places just in case (your floors won’t always be level, especially if they’re tile).

Now, place your level on your mark and draw an even horizontal line.

Continue the line all the way around the walls. By the time I got to the window, my line was more than 1/2″ off from my original mark, but a level line is more important than matching the distance to the floor!

Next, grab your 1×4 and repeat the same steps you took for the baseboards (measure, miter, mark studs & nail to the wall). Make sure the bottom is even with your level line.

Repeat until all top horizontal pieces are in.

Now you’re ready for the battens! Before attaching these, it’s important to assess the whole room and plan out your spacing. This is important to make sure you’re avoiding any obstacles or funky spacing issues as each wall will be a different size.

We worked out our spacing to avoid the main outlet near the door, which ended up falling at around a 13″ gap between boards.

Fortunately for us, we were able to achieve similar spacing on the other walls for a uniform look (it ranged between ~11.5-13″ around the whole room). Aim for consistent spacing, but calculate your measurements by wall, not by room!

For example, this wall was 58″ wide. To get the spacing as close to 13″ as possible, we needed to add five battens—each batten is 2.5″ wide for a total of 12.5″. Subtract the width of all the battens from the width of the entire wall (58 – 12.5 = 45.5). Then divide that by the number of spaces between battens, which would be four. 45.5 divided by 4 = 11.375″. Close enough!

You won’t notice the different spacing of each wall if it’s off by just a couple inches, but you can always adjust where the battens start and end (they don’t need to begin along the edge of the wall or in a corner!)

Our largest spacing was underneath the window, but I promise you’ll never notice the difference (especially after the toilet is installed).

Before you do any cutting, make sure to measure for each batten where you plan to attach it, because the height will not be consistent throughout the room (unless you’re special and your floors are perfectly level!)

I like to use liquid nails for reinforcement, since they don’t usually end up in studs.

The wonderful thing about MDF is that it’s semi flexible which allows it to bend around walls that aren’t straight or have imperfections (so no huge gaps to fill unlike wood) AND the edges are smooth, no splinters or sanding required (also unlike wood). Not to mention you never have to worry about bowed/warped boards, and it’s a fraction of the cost.

I used 3-4 nails per batten and they went up so easy. Once the first is in, measure horizontally and mark where the next board should go (remember the spacing was calculated earlier and will be different for each wall).

I made a mark both at the top and bottom, measured and cut the next batten, and did a test fit to be safe:

Before gluing and nailing, make sure to double check with your level (this is the most important step!)

Repeat with the next batten (mark, measure, cut, glue, level, nail).

This part goes by fast!

Once all the battens are up, it’s time to add the top ledge. This part is optional, but I think it makes the molding look more finished (plus it’s so cheap and easy to add!)

Grab a ladder (or a taller person) and measure the width of your first wall. You’ll want to miter the corners of these just like the baseboards and 1×4’s.

Apply a generous line of liquid nails along the back.

Set your ledge in place. Happy face optional.

Nail down at several points along the ledge, being careful to aim towards the back so your nail doesn’t end up coming through the front. It can be a bit tricky to get the tip of the gun flat against the molding, but you can always hammer the nail down later if it doesn’t fully countersink (we had to do this a few times).

Here’s a closeup of the mitered edges in the corners (we had to come back and do the wall on the right another day because we were waiting on our door trim to be installed).

On the opposite side where the wall ended, we made simple straight cuts.

Carry the ledge all the way around the room. Here’s an inside joint from above:

And an outside joint:

Almost there!

Most people stop here, but I decided to take it a step further and add some fancy chair rail molding (I’m all about those extra details). 

This was measured/mitered/nailed up the same way as the top ledge. We used a decent amount of liquid nails so we wouldn’t have to use as many finish nails.

Pro tip: nail into a flat/smooth area if possible, which will make the hole much easier to spackle and sand.

A quick little diagram for reference:

Put your power tools away because the hardest part is done! Time to spackle those nail holes…

And caulk allllll the seams (the most time consuming and my least favorite part)…

Give those time to dry, use a sanding sponge to get all the spackle nice and smooth, then move on to the last phase: paint!

I picked up a handful of green samples to try out at home (do NOT skip this step—the more samples, the better!) I actually had to go back to Lowe’s for more because they looked so different on my walls vs in store. These are all Valspar colors (and take this photo with a grain of salt, because I promise they look different in person and in your own home):

I was glad I went back for more samples, because the last one (Wilderness) ended up being the winner! I bought a gallon in satin (more durable for bathrooms than flat or eggshell) along with these Purdy rollers. I normally use foam rollers, but those tend to leave roller marks if your paint has any amount of sheen, and I couldn’t risk that with satin paint.

Moment of truth…

Even during the first coat I could tell it was perfect!

Painting went by fast. The roller covered 95% of the surface area (also, totally switching to this roller from now on—I think it’s better than the foam and no roller marks to be found!)

We used my favorite short angled brush for all the little details.

Paint with a sheen takes more coats to cover vs flat (especially over primed MDF), so we ended up needing two full coats plus a bunch of smaller touchups.

There was a big debate in my IG stories about whether to paint the window trim green or white… most of you chose white (my initial plan) but after much consideration, I went with the green!

I think it’s a much more sophisticated (and less predictable/safe) look.

The door trim was painted green too, but I’m still debating on whether to paint the door green or white (it’s just primed right now).


So in love with this Valspar Wilderness. Depending on the wall/time of day, it ranges from an emerald green to an olive green to a deep mossy green.

Once we get our lights installed, the color will be even more dynamic. Looking forward to seeing how that looks later this week.

We still have quite a bit to do in here—crown molding, finish the door, install the vanity/faucet, lighting, toilet, hang the mirror and artwork and shower curtain and all the last minute details by the end of this week.

But we’re pretty excited about making it this far!

Hopefully this tutorial gives you the confidence to give board and batten a shot, no matter your skill level or experience. You might be surprised at how simple and straightforward it is! If I can do it 8.5 months pregnant in the hottest Florida summer days, I know you can too 😉

Check back in a few days for nursery progress!

Riverside Retreat Kitchen Plans

The Riverside Retreat kitchen renovation has been a long time coming, but we’ve finally pulled the trigger on Phase 1 and today I’m sharing all the plans for this budget conscious makeover!

If you’re new to the blog, we bought/moved into this house last summer with the goal of renovating it (on a budget) to become a vacation rental. Today it’s about halfway completed, and now that we’re no longer living there, we’ve finally started tackling the bigger projects like the kitchen and bathrooms. Make sure to check out the Before Tour here along with our design plans (you can also watch the video tour here).

The kitchen doesn’t look too horrible in the photos, but the cheap laminate cabinets were falling apart (and rotting away from exposed plumbing and water damage on the back wall).

It’s a decent sized room (13’5″ square) but floor plan of the house does not allow us to knock down any walls to open it up (it borders a laundry room, bedroom and a downstairs bonus room).

Door to the laundry room on the left, and main entrance from the dining room on the right (a bedroom is behind the wall in the center and can’t be removed):

The one thing this kitchen does have going for it is 9′ ceilings, which goes a long way to make it feel more open.

Last September we replaced the tile floors with new Pergo laminate, but didn’t touch anything else. I don’t recommend staying in a house during weeks of tile demolition—we will never forget living through The Great Dustpression of 2018.

I’ve had a year to think about the design for this space, and have finally come up with a plan I feel good about. The two biggest considerations for me were 1) price point and 2) overall look/feel.

Since this is an investment property and we have a limited budget, I had to be thoughtful about where to best allocate those dollars and that meant no splurging on high end items. With that said, a unique and eye-catching design is critical to stand out in the vacation rental market, so this can’t be a generic white kitchen. I had to find creative and inexpensive ways to make it feel custom but still classic, and in line with the overall theme of the BnB: tropical, earthy, boho, mediterranean resort style with lots of deep greens, natural textures, wood tones and bold patterns. 

I looked to Pinterest for inspiration, and a few recurring ideas stood out. Love the green used here, the vintage rug and how light and open the room feels with white uppers:

via the Everygirl

These cabinets are more teal but another great example of how much taller a room feels with open shelving/white on the top half. Love the gold accents and rug too:

via Style Me Pretty

Talk about going all in on color! This shade of earthy green is the closest to what I’m looking for, and it looks killer next to all the brass, natural wood and warm tones.

via Jean Stoffer Design

These cabinets are more of a sage green, but yet another example of green lowers paired with white on top. Such a refreshing combo!

via deVol kitchens

With my design direction established, I spent a lot of time searching out products that fit the style—and most importantly, the budget. Here’s what I came up with:

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

A quick breakdown of the sources:

1. Cabinets

Cabinets are the foundation of a kitchen and typically the biggest portion of the budget, so I tend to choose them first when coming up with a design. I knew I wanted green lowers, but wasn’t able to source anything in stock in the right color. I quickly realized I’d have to use a custom color, and shopped around for unfinished cabinets I could paint myself, but even those options fell short (the wrong style, too expensive, not easily customizable/confusing ordering process).

Eventually I landed on IKEA, which is generally accepted as the most economical customized route. I’ve used their cabinets to build a DIY pantry, bench seating and bar area, but this would be my first time using them for an entire kitchen. Those were all positive experiences so I felt confident going all in this time. One of the biggest selling points, for me, was the ability to use their 3D planner to visualize the design before ordering.

After going through all of the options, I settled on the Torhamn style for the main cabinets/lowers, and Axstad for the white uppers.

I chose the Torhamn line because they’re wood and can be sanded/painted, they’re a classic shaker style and one of the most affordable door styles Ikea offers (picture all the wood cabinets in these renderings painted green—exact color still TBD!)

We’ll have to do some modifications/custom work like adding filler pieces, building a surround for the fridge, a custom range hood, crown molding and trim. Even still, we were able to customize quite a bit with the help of an Ikea associate. I’d highly recommend going over your plans with them before ordering, as they can make suggestions you didn’t even know were possible. Like our upper doors…

The 3D planner won’t let you mix and match door sizes with cabinet frames (we used 30″ plus 20″ boxes for the uppers) and the associate was able to swap the smaller doors out for individual 50″ doors. We weren’t able to preview the taller doors in the rendering, but this will be more functional and look cleaner (and saved us a little $).

We’ll be adding floating shelves on either side of the window which will help the kitchen feel more open, make it easier for guests, and save $ on cabinets. I did opt to spend a little more on their Spolad built-in dishwasher with a matching cabinet panel on the front—so worth a few hundred more to have a nice clean row of uninterrupted cabinets!

We ordered everything last week during their kitchen sale (10% off) and spent $5853 total, including our countertops and the dishwasher. It’ll end up costing more after all of the modifications we’ll need to add, but I’d consider around $5k (for the cabinets) in a standard sized kitchen to be a pretty sweet deal.

2. Backsplash

I knew I wanted to use Bedrosians Cloe tile since it first launched last fall. I’ve had samples sitting in a box for months and decided the white colorway would be perfect for this space.

It’s a classic subway style shape but the color variation, sheen and texture add a ton of dimension and interest. Now the only question is… stacked or staggered?

3 & 4. Pulls & knobs

I was almost ready to pull the trigger on these knobs and pulls for our Heights House kitchen and ended up nixing those plans since there was no matching appliance pull. But that means I can finally use them now!

I found them on Lowe’s and love the fact that the pulls come in 4″, 5″ and 6″ lengths with matching knobs.

The best part is, they range from just $4-$8. Done and done!

5. Pendant light

We’ll be adding a pendant light above the sink, and this schoolhouse style is timeless, classic and budget-friendly (also on sale until tomorrow!)

6. Countertops

This was one of the more difficult decisions because I had envisioned white/marble-like counters in the original plan. I thought Ikea’s Eckbacken would be perfect (only $80/slab!) but didn’t love the way it looked in person and was concerned with the quality over time—definitely too good to be true at that price.

I couldn’t justify spending thousands on real stone, so that left us with the tried and true budget-friendly option—butcher block:

Ikea carries a few different styles/species, and I chose the Karlby as it was the closest match to our floors.

Even though it wasn’t my first choice, I’ve come around to the idea of wood—especially given the fact that our countertops only cost around $300 total. You really can’t beat that!

7. Faucet

A satin brass/gold finish similar to our cabinet hardware was the most important factor for me here, and those options are surprisingly limited. I’ve been using fixtures in Delta’s champagne bronze line for years (reputable brand + beautiful finish), and found a simple/relatively affordable faucet that fit the bill:

8. Sink

I love a good farmhouse sink—in fact I’ve used them in every kitchen remodel since 2013—but this time I decided to mix things up and go with an undermount. No particular reason other than to try something new and save a few bucks. This simple white 33″ undermount sink is only $163 and has good ratings, so we’ll give it a shot!

9 & 10. Fridge & range

This was another decision I researched heavily and went back and forth on a LOT. I plan to write a dedicated blog post on the non-stainless steel appliance options I found and lay out all the pros/cons of each, so I won’t get into those details just yet.

Ultimately, I decided on Whirlpool’s sunset bronze line, using this counter-depth fridge:

And coordinating Smart electric range:

Price point was the biggest determining factor, and they’ve popped up on sale twice in the past couple months (15% off right now until 8/7!) We won’t be ready to order for a while, so I’m hoping to wait and snag them on sale again a couple months down the line.

I think that covers everything! I’m on the hunt for a vintage (or vintage-style) rug but that will come later, and I’m still on the fence about adding an island. Since it will be a vacation rental there doesn’t need to be a ton of cabinet storage for food/pantry items, just the basic essentials. Demo began last month but we’ve switched our focus to other projects, so we’re still working on getting contractors lined up for the work.

The plumbing and electric need to be redone first, and we’ll be hiring out the vast majority  since we’ll be busy with a newborn starting in a few weeks—although we DID buy a paint sprayer and plan to DIY painting the cabinets.

The only thing we’ve purchased so far are the cabinets, counters and dishwasher, and this won’t be a super quick renovation so everything else in the design plan is subject to change! You never know what may pop up in the next couple months…

I’ll be sharing updates on Instagram if you want to follow along with the renovation, and I’ll also post periodic updates here on the blog to show the progress. In the meantime, we’ve got a new bathroom that’s only a couple weeks away from being finished—more on that next week! Exciting times at the Riverside Retreat…


Heights House Smart Locks & Home Features

It’s not often talked about in the home/design blogging world, but I believe smart home features are every bit as important (sometimes even more so) as design and décor. They provide convenience, comfort and safety, and keep our house (and lives) running smoothly.

Now that we’ve finally settled into a permanent home after years of traveling and renting, researching and implementing smart home features has been a priority. We spend the vast majority of our time here, so why not make it as functional as possible?

In this post I’ll be sharing the features we’ve added to our home, our experience with them so far and what’s next on our list. Good news: most are easy to install and easy on the wallet!

First, let’s talk about these doors and locks (not smart home related but I’ve been meaning to share the sources!)

If you’ve been around for a while, you know my love affair with doors and hardware runs deep. They’re one of the most important design elements in my book, and this house was no exception. I ordered custom solid core 7′ doors from a manufacturer on Ebay and had them painted in SW Accessible Beige.

When it came to the hardware, I had a specific style in mind, and Emtek was my first choice. Apart from being well known for their quality, Emtek has an insanely huge catalog of options in every finish under the sun, so I was able to find exactly what I was looking for.

I opted for a 9″ Colonial plate with the turino brass lever in matte black for all of our interior doors. One of the best and most unique features of Emtek is the ability to mix and match different backplates, levers and knobs in different finishes—not only with full handlesets, but even on individual sides of the door! This really comes in handy if you have one side of the door painted a different color (which I often do) or want a different style for the interior of a certain room.

The matte black lever style goes with everything so I decided to keep them all consistent, but it’s nice to know I can easily switch out different parts in the future if I change my mind.

Moving onto the exterior doors—here’s where the technology comes in. We enter the house through the back patio french doors, and wanted a secure keyless entry system. Emtek just released their EMPowered Smart lock a couple months ago so we decided to give it a shot.

All you need is the smart deadbolt paired with a regular passage handle (no keyset/lock required) so I used the same 9″ colonial plates in matte black, but with knobs instead of levers.

Installation and setup is straightforward, though you do have to drill an extra hole in the door frame for a sensor. We can’t get enough of the sleek look (and hallelujah for no fumbling for house keys!)

We used the same smart lock on the front door as well.

You can program multiple codes for friends/visitors to use, and it can be controlled with both Alexa and the August app.

This is especially useful when we’re away—we can simply open the August app and see the current status (the sensor lets us know if the doors are closed/locked, closed/unlocked, ajar or open). We can also lock/unlock both doors, and view a timestamped history of when they were opened and which code(s) were used. Pretty convenient, right?

As much as I love technology, I didn’t want the hardware to look too modern and take away from the medieval style of the front door, so I thought the Baden entry set was a nice compromise.

On the inside, I just switched out the lever to match the other interior doors.

And there’s one more very important addition to the front door…

Our Ring Doorbell Pro!

Several months ago we installed the Ring doorbell at the Riverside Retreat and it has been one of our favorite upgrades. We knew we’d want one for this house too, so I scooped up the Pro version when it went on sale for $199 a couple months ago.

If you aren’t familiar with the Ring, let me tell you why it’s one of our most useful smart home features. The Ring records video and sends you alerts when there’s motion at your front door (with the Pro version, the sensitivity field can be adjusted so it won’t pick up activity in the street).

The built-in camera, microphone and speaker allow you to see, hear and communicate with visitors in real time (through the Ring app or your Alexa devices).

You can review a log of past activity, and there’s no subscription required—however—after 30 days you’ll need to subscribe their Recording Plan in order to store/retrieve past recorded videos (plans started at $3/mo last I checked).

We didn’t bother subscribing after our free trial ended at the Riverside Retreat, but it would have come in handy when a car flipped over and crashed into our driveway a few weeks ago ? Once that house becomes a vacation rental, you can bet we’ll be buying the subscription! Still undecided if we’ll splurge for it at this house…

Let’s get out of the heat and step back inside to our next smart home feature—the EcoBee thermostat:

The EcoBee was recommended by our builder’s low voltage installer (over the Nest or other similar models) and we have no complaints so far. The two biggest selling points for me are the ability to set it on an automatic schedule, and the fact that it communicates with Alexa (this was a must).

It really is just set it and forget it, and you can program different away/vacation modes as well. Although there is an ongoing battle in our house over the ideal settings… one of us does not agree that 75º when you’re 8 months pregnant during Florida summer is acceptable. 68º at night is pushing it, too. Marriage is all about compromise, right? 😉

Our last (but certainly not least) and most used features of the house? The Amazon Echo Spot and Dot:

We started using Alexa this past Christmas and haven’t gone a day without it. The Echo Spot is our main hub, and we keep it in the kitchen/dining area where we spend our evenings. It’s voice controlled and mostly used to play music and podcasts, but it’s also very useful for setting timers (especially while cooking) and reminders throughout the day.

We also keep an Echo Dot (it does the same thing, just without a screen) in our bedroom and I just bought another one (on sale for only $25!) for the nursery, which will be perfect to play white noise once baby starts sleeping there.

For me, the biggest selling point of Alexa is its compatibility with so many other smart technology devices. We use it with our door locks, thermostat, Ring doorbell and house speakers—and that’s just scratching the surface. It’s so nice to have the option to control everything by voice and with one app.

One cool feature is the ability to customize routines, where you can give Alexa a command and have her execute a set of pre-programmed actions. Before heading to our room for the night, we’ll say “Alexa, we’re going to bed” and she’ll lock our doors, set the temperature and play the music of our choice:

How neat is that? If you’re unfamiliar with Alexa and all of its features, I’d definitely look into it (Amazon reviews are my favorite way to research). It has made our lives so much more convenient and will only continue to improve as new technology is released and Alexa skills are added. I’d recommend starting with an Echo Dot (you can get two right now for $50!) and see how you like it.

Our smart home journey is only beginning, and we’re still in the process of learning and adding more features. We had speakers installed in the kitchen, dining room, living room and bedroom and we’re currently looking into smart receivers to be able to control them through Alexa (music is life around here and we can’t go a day without it! Also, necessary for entertaining which we love to do).

We also just bought a smart TV on sale during Prime Day (our first TV in years!) which will connect to Alexa and allow us to watch Netflix, access apps and the internet. We have no desire to pay for cable (we don’t watch TV anyway apart from football season) so this setup is perfect for us.

Future upgrades we’re looking into are a smart garage door (ours is broken and desperately needs to be replaced), smart bulbs/lighting and smart AC vents (this technology is still very new, but we waste a lot of energy cooling the entire house at night instead of our bedroom only).

Tell me, have you jumped on the smart home train yet? I’m convinced it’s only a matter of time before we’re controlling everything in our lives via voice or app. Time is our most valuable resource and anything that makes our lives operate with less friction is a step in the right direction. What smart home features do you use and love?

Easy (and affordable) DIY Trellis Install

We’re now a couple months into our new routine of maintaining the yard at the Heights House. Figuring out how to properly care for so many different plants has been a bit of a learning curve (not to mention the never ending weeding and mowing!) and I still owe you guys a complete landscaping post. That will come soon, but today I wanted to share a recent project we tackled on our own that I’m pretty proud of.

Part of our landscape/hardscape plan was creating half-moon bumpouts along the wall on our back patio for bougainvilleas. Here’s a shot from May after the paver installers finished, before they were planted (in blooming season!)

They were planted and stayed wrapped around the little wood trellis for a while as we focused on moving in and other projects…

The plan was always to construct some sort of large trellis so that they would climb the wall. Originally we had envisioned vines organically crawling across the stucco, but those are invasive and would end up damaging the house eventually. Our landscaper suggested bougainvillea as an option, and we loved the idea (especially in blooming season) so that was the route we took.

The next piece of the puzzle was how to build the trellis. There are so many options to choose from—pre-made wood sheets, DIY from scratch, fabricated metal, hooks and wire—the list goes on. Pretty quickly I eliminated the costliest and most time consuming options, as  we have a laundry list of more pressing house projects to complete this summer. After spending ample time on Pinterest (which gave me plenty of great ideas but didn’t lead to a clear winner) I spotted these on Amazon…

The price tag was the first thing that caught my eye (only $50 for 2 panels) and when I read the details and reviews I was even more interested. We had a pretty specific size to fill between two windows, and most of the other options I found were a too wide and/or too short. This trellis expands all the way up to 120″ and we could adjust the width to fit the wall. And since it was already assembled there was little work involved—simply attach it to the wall. I was also a fan of the natural willow branch material and thought it’d be a nice contrast against our light walls. SOLD!

They arrived a few days later…

Then we had to figure out how to attach it to the wall. With wood siding it’s pretty simple, but when drilling into concrete you need to use anchors. We found these plastic anchors that can be used with drywall or masonry:


And I also grabbed a pack of these hooks to screw into the anchors:

Before getting started, Lucas held up the first trellis while I stood back to direct.

Once I was happy with the position, he held it in place as I marked the wall at four corners of the trellis where we wanted to place the hooks. The trellis was then removed, and Lucas drilled into the holes using the masonry bit that came with our anchor kit.

Next, the anchors were inserted and gently hammered into place.

Followed by the screw hooks…

A wrench was used for the last bit to make sure they were nice and snug. These aren’t going anywhere!

The process was repeated on each corner…

Moment of truth…

And it fit!

In hindsight we realized it would probably make more sense to face the bottom hooks down and the top hooks up so there’s natural resistance, but the trellis wasn’t going to budge unless you were physically trying to take it down. Just to be safe, we cut some wire to wrap around the hooks.

The trellis sticks out a few inches from the wall, which should be a good distance to allow the bougainvillea to weave through.

Since the expandable joints make the trellis easily movable, we decided to add a fifth hook in the center to keep it from shifting.

That did the trick!

And our first trellis was ready to roll…

Followed shortly by the second:

Finally, we had to remove the old wood trellis and get these bougies climbing. We used a jigsaw to cut out the old…

Then carefully pulled apart the branches and wrapped them around the new trellis. No real rhyme or reason to this, we just tried to be as careful as we could (although there were a few casualties in the process).

But these plants seem pretty hearty and have been thriving in the past several weeks, so we’re hopeful they’ll take to their new home.

Think tall thoughts, little bougies!

They’ve been hanging out here for 17 days and not much has changed yet, but they aren’t regressing so that’s a good sign…

The addition of the trellises have definitely made a noticeable difference on the patio.

They have such a lovely presence and fill the space quite nicely. And the entire project cost less than $70 (that’s $35 per trellis!) and under two hours from start to finish.

We’re also loving the view from inside…

Ahh… it’s the little things in life. So happy with the way our home is shaping up.

If you have an empty section of wall on the outside of your house, I highly encourage you to give this a try! There are lots of ways to make it your own and you can use planted pots if you don’t have any ground space. Landscaping and greenery really does make such a difference, and will especially pay off over time as they fill in. Looking forward to watching them grow!

More Heights House updates, coming soon! In the meantime, you can follow the progress in real time on my Instagram stories and see what’s been inspiring me lately on Pinterest. Happy mid-summer!