A solution to the toddler-book-decor dilemma: bookshelf reveal!

If you have young children and a yen to decorate you know how young children push you to adapt. I have been in search of a way to store my children’s books. I tried a traditional bookshelf a few years ago. That ended quickly. You’d be amazed how difficult it is for a two year old to re-shelve books. We used baskets. The book collection grew. We settled on using the bottom drawer of a dresser and that worked very well. That is, until we moved the children into the same room and needed every drawer of the dresser. Next we stuck the books into their play IKEA kitchen they never use. It was okay, but…new two-year old, same problem. The books ended up all over the floor. I invented a library system (perhaps not a totally original idea). We stored the books in our room and allowed the children to pick out three books each week. That lasted until Saturday (a week and a half into the system) when the kids were driving each other crazy and I let them loose in the “library” to occupy themselves. So here we are!

I liked this bookcase from The Land of Nod.

But at $200 it just wouldn’t work for us. I don’t believe transitional furniture should cost so much. Then I came across this diy tutorial.

Fabulous. As I’ve looked out of my kids’ window, since we moved here, I have enjoyed the view of the aged pallet the previous owners left behind. Let’s do it.

Clip, clip here. Clip, clip there.

We cut the pallet, which was missing some boards, into three usable sections. Here is a photo of the last one left.


Follow that with a white wash in Annie Sloans’ Chalk Paint, pure white.


I love how it turned out to a feathered soft gray. The walls in the kids’ room are gray, so I knew it would be the perfect complement.


By the goodwill of my gracious, wonderful, tired of looking for drywall screws husband to hang them, two shelves went on the wall. Recently, we had yet another incident of important things falling off walls (my fault it wasn’t hung with proper screws), so let me just say, drywall screws are important!


IMG_6200Add a book…

IMG_6201Add some seating…

IMG_6206And a child…


And voila! DIY pallet bookshelves for the kids’ room. My daughter has already staked out the top shelf as “hers” a pronoun we don’t often use here, so there may be some battles. Nevertheless, I’m pleased with how they turned out!

What methods have you used to solve the toddler-book-decor dilemma?

Considering new projects while making adjustments here and there

Following Christmas came more colds. The baby started with a cough and it slowly made it’s way around the family. I was knocked flat (or wanted to be) for two days. So I now continue to travel on the road of sleep deprivation towards recovery. One day…one day. Here are the minor changes that took place in the mean time…


In this photo you can see our wild one in her pack-and-play, a rare treat these days. I bought a new rug on clearance from West Elm, which is now under the piano. It replaced a rug from overstock.com which looked great in the online photo. It had less than perfect reviews but I decided to take a chance. What a mistake! I’ve hated it ever since so this $70 cotton dhurrie was a delight to purchase and receive. I very much enjoy paying $70 for rugs. I think the $700 ones are beautiful, but I don’t think I’ll ever go there. This one is contemporary, won’t shed, won’t irritate baby’s skin and as blues are my primary accent color for the room, it’s perfect!



For our Nutcracker Christmas party we moved our re-purposed antique radio away from our entryway station into the corner. The corner now feels so much more complete and I have a new surface to decorate. I still have guilt over painting this beauty, but I admit, I do personally love the way it looks. We removed the radio and the kids used the hole as a cubby/hiding place. I think it’s important to create opportunities like that for children.


Our entry way is simpler now. Typically we have tried to have a place to drop keys and my husband’s wallet. This is the current set up. Low table for my purse (in this case a doll leg) and a toy basket (not that the toys are in it).



Those are minor changes. More joyfully, I stopped by our local consignment shop, Selective Consignments in Hughson, CA. I noticed these beautiful antique chairs some time ago. At $250 for the pair they were well beyond a splurge purchase. Today’s treat for me? The sign read: “MAKE OFFER.” Not knowing what to offer, I spoke with the owner. “Oh those chairs from the 1930’s?” What? I admit my pleasure at discovering that, yet again, I unknowingly am drawn to items from the same Art Deco period. What will he take? $100 for the pair. Yes!

They have a new home. They are in the right scale to match two other wood chairs we have. I can finally get rid of the too tall, spindles-poking my-pregnant-stomach chairs. I’m not pregnant now, but I resent them for all the times it happened.






IMG_6144No scratches. No splitting. The pink faux leather isn’t our style, though I secretly like it against our gray walls and am planning pink as an accent color for Spring. Nevertheless, I promised my beloved I would reupholster them, so I think I’ll do all our chairs in a solid indigo outdoor fabric.

I’ve finished painting an estate sale rocking chair with Napoleonic blue by Annie Sloan’s Chalk Paint. Chalk paint is amazing. I’m absolutely hooked. My difficulty with painting furniture has ever been that I hate prep work. If you feel the same, chalk paint may be just the thing for you. In Spring we’ll move the rocking chairs to our front patio area.

The next project on my list: paint the vintage metal folding chairs with chalk paint, arms in Pure White, body in Napoleonic Blue. These will go in the back yard, around the circular table, painted white, which belonged to my great-grandmother. I imagine a Parisian scene, blues and whites. It will be my imagined version anyway, which mysteriously does come together, though no one else may know the reference.

The project on our list: redoing the office and kids room. For the office, built-in cabinets and shelving, custom desks for my husband and myself. We’ll piece his desk together from IKEA, create shelves with brackets and 100-year wood my dad obtained from someone remodeling their home, and mount kitchen cabinets along the top of the wall (I’m thinking they’ll come from Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore). For my desk I’m thinking I will use cabinets, again hopefully from the ReStore, and have a counter height desk which will make sewing and work, while holding the baby, easier. At this time I never use the office for that reason. For the kid’s we plan to purchase bunk beds from IKEA, create some bookshelves using an old pallet, and finally have some space in there again! These projects made possible by our tax return. I am grateful.

As this new year rolls along I hope you also have some exciting projects planned. Good luck!

Come and stay a while

It looks as though I never posted pictures of my daughter’s room once made over. I painted the walls with left over Collanade Gray (Sherwin Williams color mixed in Clark & Kinsington paint). Before moving to Minnesota in college a print store was going out of business and I found this beautiful print for $5. IMG_5190My father made a frame for it using redwood siding he took off the house following a remodel. Shabby chic before it was chic.


That plaque below was a thoughtful birthday gift from my best friend.


We have an ABC duvet from IKEA and pool colored sheets (or turquoises if you like) to complement the picture and the cool gray walls. Hello kitty is a ballerina here.



I placed my paternal great-grandmother’s wood table with a floral blue and green tablecloth in the corner so my almost-four-year old can have a play place out of reach of her troublesome almost-two-year old brother.


That wild green chair you see in the corner of the photo is getting a gray makeover as well so it can be more versatile. That make over is halfway completed at this point. With little children everything but the children moves in very slow time…


Everything in the room was complete and I was so pleased, and then to make things crazy again we bought a furniture set from an antique dealer who sells pieces he refinishes out of his house on a very busy country road. What a find! A double-size Art Nouveau (read: turn of the century, beautiful organic detail on wood) bed.




My daughter now has a princess bed to sleep on, which will function as a guest bed when company comes. We had the delight of being able to host my husband’s best friend and best friend’s wife. I added our Calvin Klien Queen size “Dahlia” comforter and an extra pillow for our guests. Unfortunately, I failed to take pictures and now the comfortable is back being stored on a guest bed in my mother’s house.



Along with the bed came a vanity and a “gentleman’s dresser” which has it’s home in our walk in closet. Here are some photographs of the vanity. Given the ages of my children, I plan on attempting to use it next spring. The mirror is a little cloudy since it’s the original glass. I’m not sure if we’ll need to change that to make it functional, but it sure is charming!




There are some changes to be made to wall decor in the master and my son’s room. The interior is nearly done! I am taking my time. There is much to do during the autumn season with birthday and holiday parties.

I’m falling more in love with this home as time goes by. I believe the home we live in is more than just a building. I strive to reflect that in my decorating. It needs to have warmth and peacefulness, art and imagination. It should be personal but have a quality that is universal in order to make it accessible and feel like home to those who enter. And that last piece is so very important to me and my husband as well. That he should share my love of hospitality is a joy for me, even though he is the never-say-anything-you-don’t-need-to-say type. We love opening our home to people.

When we first walked into this house, I felt something move my heart. The people I shared this with did not seem to understand. But I believe a spiritual connection to one’s environment can exist. Couldn’t the Holy Spirit move my heart to tell us that this is the place. This is the home our children will grow in. And it’s been beautiful. From the functional lay out to, what’s more important, our amazing neighborhood and neighbors. That is something that seems to me nearly impossible to predict and it’s been perfect!

Jewels around the room

And so another month passed in the life of the Casey family. It appears blog in great bursts of energy and then retreat back to the private shell of life. During the course of the month I learned I ought to only include one space at the end of each sentence and am grateful to say I have nearly mastered the art. Life is beautiful and busy. I’ve returned to work two days a week. We’ve stretched our roles to be both part time workers and part time stay at home parents, which adds up to one full time income and a parent always at home with our children. Our eldest has braved the playgrounds of preschool and loved it thus finding no equal in cuteness or impressiveness (personal opinion).


The chandelier is up!


We now have lovely jewels sprinkled around our home.IMG_5059





At the same consignment store where we purchased the piano, I spotted a wooden camera tripod leaning along with miscellaneous items. I kept it in mind and returned to haggle when I couldn’t stop thinking about it.


The shade is temporary but I’m pleased with the colors. Since its not trés chic to mix metals, I love the look of the gold shade against our warm gray walls.


Mason jars adorn our three piece pendant in the hallway.



It occurs to me I never posted photos of our newly decorate hall bath.


I painted over “aged chocolate” brown paint with my left over Urban Loft (free project), removed the mirror and replaced it with a lovely wooden find from World Market.


I used a cutting board to create a tray and add an element of warmth for the bathroom necessities of toothbrushes, cup and toothpaste.


This look created the canvas I’ve longed for to hang an abstract painting I have ever loved and my husband has ever hated.



I call it my feminist painting because as I look at it, I feel the beauty of womanhood celebrated. My husband just thinks it is odd. Were artists ever meant to see fully eye to eye?


The boy’s room has begun its transformation.





I was looking at coral colors but worried it would present as too pink. I opted for an orange that isn’t too far from the coral palate called Azalea Blossom by Clark and Kinsington. I’ve been so pleased with the cost and quality of this paint.


The color is very forward in its silliness, but isn’t that what a child’s room should be like?


I have some delicious plans cooked up for the rest of the room. More to follow on that.


Plans move along with the outdoors as well. The man has decided to let the weed lawn in the backyard die. We can allocate more water to the front (trying go green here, people) and prepare the back for more landscaping. Our plan is to install a brick path (firebricks from my parents’ home) rocks along the outside with succulents planted around the outside as well. We’ll look into drought tolerant ground cover once the brick path is installed. It won’t be little Italy, but it will be responsible gardening for California climate.

An intro to the great outdoors

We continue to move along.  The living room is nearly done (at least for this stage of the game).  I’m so pleased with the clean, modern look of Collonade Gray in the walls.  We have our World Market basket weave lamp shade is up in place of the already-here chandelier.


When I walk down our hallway I see this focal point.


New pillows are on the way.  Our centerpiece pillow from Pottery Barn and the accompanying pillows are from Pier 1, all referencing Art Deco to honor our new chandelier for the entryway (!).





Here is a closer shot with better lighting.


The chandelier is original Art Deco beauty.  With it came the original glass for the fixtures.  We’ll take down the ceiling mounted light and move it to the hall bathroom to replace the purely utilitarian (although it doesn’t work) ceiling light fixture.  With my father’s help I’ll rewire this treasure piece and she’ll be up before the end of the week. Genevieve Gorder of HGTV calls these sorts of pieces the jewelry of the room.  And I agree!


I’ve yet to post any photos of the exterior of our new home.  Here she is!



The house faces east so the living room has tons of light.  The orientation does make it warm in during the day, however, the excellent layout, plantation shutters and ceiling fans in every room limit the discomfort we might have had.  Our previous home faced west, had no ceiling fans (except a large on in the tiny master) and the layout provided little opportunity for circulation.


Gardening has begun!

Here is our starting point:

IMG_4956 IMG_4962 IMG_4955

The tall shrubs are on their way out.  I’ve been gradually trimming down the large round shrubs as well.  The previous owners featured a dolphin water fountain which we look forward to selling.  For now we’ll have to plant around it as it has been difficult to schedule muscular friends to help my muscular husband move it.  My feeling about this landscaping is that it is entirely too busy and that the proportions create a visual dissonance.  I’d like to see more balance and visual flow.  I like shrubs, but when their size is controlled.

So, we’ll clear out the clutter and begin the process of growing an edible garden, focused primarily on perennial herb plants.  The color scheme will be purples and “fire” colors (yellow, orange, red).  I love crape myrtle trees but I’m not sure if this one will stay.  We’ve talked about planting fruit trees along the side of the yard and possibly adding a short iron fence to keep our wild children safe.  Time will tell what we have in store.


Little projects here and there

We’re making progress at a bit at a time.  Our new chaise lounge arrived and fits beautifully with our bedroom decor.  I realize now the decor was less Art Nouveau and more Rococo, but I’m sure no one will fault me for it.  The important thing for me are the colors, organic shapes and mixtures of antiques and new pieces.IMG_4929

Our headboard needs a little extra work but I neglected to add a detail shot of it.  My husband acquired an antique piano with the intent to repair it.  However a repair was impossible so pieces of it now grace us as our headboard and bench at the foot of the bed.


We’re getting tired of looking at the green of the living/dining room.  Using paint samples of Colonnade Gray, I started painting the kitchen.  We went from here:


to here:


I love the cooler, more modern look.  I dream of indigo and paprika accents.

This morning, the glass rack went up:


And using foam from window seats I made two houses ago, I made cushions for our picnic benches.  Benches for dining tables are shockingly expensive, so I’m repurposing these old redwood benches, painting with exterior paint, and now covered in suiting fabric I received when my grandmother moved from her house.  Tomato red fabric ties them down.


I may switch the red fabric for black later on, but it’s something to fun to look at while we transition.  My dream is to use reclaimed, 100-year old lumber from my father’s house to make a new, rustic dining table.  I do not yet know if that dream will be realized.

So slowly but surely, we make the place our own.


The Casey House of Hughson

And now for our new home.  I’d like to do this room by room as I manage the work, room by room.  The style of the home is contemporary and it is part of a larger housing development.  We fell in love with it’s openness, light, plantation shutters, the presence of a porch/patio-like area in the front of the house (hidden by bushes but landscaping changes is another story).

The house is open concept with a partially enclosed kitchen, an office, three bedrooms and two baths.  Currently the living/dining rooms and kitchen are sort of cheery light green, like the Hearts of Palm by Sherwin Williams.  It’s nice, but out-dated.  Over the fireplace and on one wall near the kitchen the wall was painted a dark henna brown.  The laundry room was covered in this color which I didn’t know until my husband replaced the light bulbs.  For a temporary fix, I painted above the fireplace and adjacent nook a dark, gray green color in a matte finish.  Oddly enough, I cannot remember the name.

Living room

This photo also serves to show you that I have three wonderful children, one is only two months old and so I spend what time I can in that glider, protecting her from her siblings.

After re-creating the focal point in the living room (the rest of the work will come later), the next priority was the office.  From boring beige, I recreated the color scheme of our previous living room which we found delightful.

IMG_4887This painting, obtained from a consignment shop on Grand Avenue in St. Paul, has traveled with me since collage and guided many a design choice.  Using the following landscape I bought prior to our marriage with my husband in mind, in the same room, was satisfying indeed.


IMG_4848 IMG_4850

The rest came together full of books in cubbies and our make-shift desks (mine belonged to my great grandmother and is really just a table).  I refrained from photographing my husbands’ desk because of the clutter.  To complete the room, I placed a painting by my dear friend from college on the shelf.


The laundry room was dark, terribly dark.  I went to work right away.  I hate to waste paint and so I used both Straw by Benjamin Moore and Gaia’s Tears by Valspar to create a cheerful work space.  One wall is lined with Melaleuca cleaning products and the other has useful tools for the task at hand.  Behind me as a take the photo is a linen closet stocked with table clothes, towels and cleaning tools.  It’s a homemaker’s dream come true.

Laundry room 2 Laundry room

While unpacking I placed a few accents in our Master bath.  Except for the cabinetry the bathroom is white and off-white.  So far the place is iron accents, but anything more has yet been determined.

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I also retrieved this painting I bought in Paris from my parents’ house.  It will have some place and serve as an inspiration somewhere.  From watching Bewitched, my daughter would like to go to Paris, to eat at a restaurant and buy a dress.  She does not yet understand what a city is.

Paris Painting







Finally it was time to tackle the Master bedroom!  The walls were cedar green which is a nice color, but I felt too dark with the wideness of the room and white plantation shutters.  I opted for a lighter shade of the color we chose in our previous home, so off went the cedar and on with Lazy Gray by Sherwin Williams.  The color read as a lavender but warmed up quickly with our hot red and gold accents.




IMG_4904  This painting served as the original inspiration, along with the bedding from Crate and Barrel.  The wall color is remniscent of the clouds and shadows on the white buildings.  The reds and golds come from the sunset and hills.

After I hung the curtains in our last home (as the headboard) the scheme reminded me of something and I pulled out this print I bought in Paris.  Viola!  A new inspiration, turn of the century Paris, Parisian-Art Nouveau.  I sought to maintain the colors found in both images and seek our organic shapes.   IMG_4906

These sconces were found at an antique shop and fit the bill perfectly.  I’ve been moving beyond my asymmetrical days and am looking forward to peaceful neutrals with strong accents and symmetry where it can be found.


These very special pieces found a home where they can be part of, what is to me, the most important space in our home.  An assortment of mementos from our wedding, an image of the Cross of the Aposolate, given to my by the Sisters of the Cross, the convent where I desired to enter religious life to marry Christ, and a mirror I remember vividly from my childhood in my grandmother’s home.

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But what makes it the most beautiful part of our home?  It is romantic; it is peaceful; it’s a retreat from the world; and it’s a place where we can gather as a family from time to time for memorable moments together.


The Casey House Evolution

We have, by the grace of God, moved into a lovely home in the small town of my upbringing, Hughson.  A la The Little Way of Ruthie Lemming, I am terribly grateful to be so close to my parents and grandmother, and accept that despite our longing for fine dining, the arts, jazz, and friends I’ve met around the country, this is what the Lord has for us and this is what is most important.  No, at judgment He will not ask if we felt we were in Italy once a month because we ate at the Trattoria Da Franco once a month or if we felt like we were on the inside circle because Jen served us free drinks on special occasions while listening to amazing jazz at the Artist’s Quarter.  No, He will ask us about the hungry, the naked, the lonely.  We’re called to love first at home.  What good are the arts if the art of love within one’s family is not perfected?  But there I digress from the subject at hand.

In this call, He has blessed us.  We have a home.  We have a home in a small town.  We have a home in a small town in a community where the guy across the street chats with my husband while water the plants.  We have a home in a small town where a young man we’ve never met before offers me tacos during his catered party as I’m leaving for the Mexican grocery store with my three-year old to buy tilapia.  Five dollars towards a boy’s Boy Scout camp experience and baseball games at the park.  We have been blessed.

I am slowly working to make this house our own.  In January we moved while I was pregnant with our third child.  The move was stressful.  For one week my mother and I painted over dark saturated red and bright, bright orange in order to make the rental a place our family could feel peaceful and at home.

Living Room

In that house, from a tomato red, we painted the living room Urban Loft from Valspar and added some throw pillows (the blue from World Market – polyester mimicking silk and homemade pillows from a gold shower curtain obtained at Unique Thrift Store in Virginia).   We took the 1980’s chandelier and covered it with a modern over-sized drum shade from World Market.  I painted the dining room a repeat color from our previous house: King Arthur’s Court by Benjamin Moore.  In my mind, I always called it latte.


For my daughters’ room, I repeated Straw by Benjamin Moore to complement a painting I bought from Prints Plus for $5 as it went out of business many moons ago.  Our son’s room received a couple coats of Gaia’s Tears by Valspar.  In my experience, Valspar is much smellier than Benjamin Moore, but the latter is so much more expensive!


The house was very dark.  A flash was used for all these photos.  The ceilings aren’t shown because no photograph could really capture the sparkles and personality of popcorn ceilings.  It was a tribute to the 80’s.

We lived there but six months before it was glaringly apparent we needed to move, much more so because of the neighborhood than the house.   Through providential help and my parents’ desire to invest, we moved into our new and rather permanent rental (rent-to-own) home.  More to follow…