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5 Cost-Effective Updates for Redesigning a Living Space

Trevor and I are definitely looking forward to owning our own home! And of course, we want to put our own touch on everything but have to watch our pennies... so what's a homeowner to do? This post, by Tali Wee of Zillow definitely helps the budget conscious {read: US!} person decide on the updates to take care of first.
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Professional interior redesigns are often costly for homeowners, which deters them from making upgrades. However, there are some simple improvements that homeowners can make – without breaking their budgets – to transform spaces.


Here are five easy and economical ways to renovate home interiors for a more homey feeling or to stage a house to attract potential home buyers.

1.     Choose a New Color Palette
Painting is a less obvious, yet extremely affordable, choice to upgrade a living space. Upgrading wall color can give interiors a whole new feel while covering general wear and tear. Most importantly, painting is an easy do-it-yourself (DIY) project. Make sure to prepare surfaces by cleaning thoroughly and protecting areas that aren’t being painted with tarps and tape.

2.       Reconsider Lighting
Recessed lighting gives a home a modern and expensive look. Aside from being aesthetically pleasing, this option brightens up a room without being intrusive on the open living space. Recessed lights are fairly easy to install, but make sure to shut the power off before beginning any project that requires contact with electricity. Already have recessed lighting but a room is still feeling drab? Update lamps, shades and chandeliers for a new and refreshing d├ęcor.

3.       Update Fixtures
Dated door handles and light switch plates are easy and inexpensive to change. If classic is more the style of the room, head over to the nearest antique shop. Resale stores often have vintage fixtures from historic homes. If the space has more of a contemporary vibe, home improvement stores offer an array of modern, low-cost fixtures. Check out home interior images to get inspired by a plethora of options.

4.       Install Crown Molding
Molding instantly adds character to a room and isn’t as complicated to mount as it may seem. This adornment takes a room from ordinary to distinctive without the added expense. A tricky part to DIY molding, however, is cutting corners so the pieces match up correctly and look professional. An easy alternative is to use corner blocks, which are pieces of decorative wood that fill the corner and join two pieces of molding together without requiring exact corner angles to be cut into the molding; corner blocks save time and prevent unsightly misaligned molding.

5.       Accessorize
Sometimes just adding a few extra throw pillows or a new area rug can change the atmosphere of a room. These simple additions can alter the entire mood of a room, but are simple to replace as style preferences change. Decorating on a budget is especially easy with a sewing machine. Buy fabric and recover existing pillows or sew new window treatments to tie new flair into a living space. Garage sales are a great resource for uncovering unique pieces that add distinctive style to an otherwise bland room.

Not everyone can afford to splurge on a professional interior designer or renovate an entire home. However, stylish upgrades are feasible. With a little creativity and some home improvement tools, a drab space can appear like a custom, designer home. Whether looking to appeal to house hunters or simply in need of a change, use these five tips to conduct a cost-effective makeover.

What are your favorite cost effective updates you've done in your own home? I need all the help and ideas I can get! Link me to your posts, your Pinterest, your photos, and more!

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things are looking up

Good morning, lovelies!

Notice things are a little less cluttered around here? How about that new blog design?!? We're still polishing everything {like trying to find the perfect font that's easier to read than this skinny mini} but it should be good to go within the next day.

I'm inviting you to take a look around and give me some feedback. If something is hard to navigate, I want to know. If links aren't working, I want to know!.If you can't find something, I want to know. I want to know {all of} your thoughts!

I wanted to tell you all about my trip to Chicago with Whit last weekend but I think I'll save that for next week. If you want a little sneak peek, head over to Black Little Button and get ready for picture overload!

So, the real reason I'm here today?!

The house is ours.

The seller agreed to the amendment we proposed and our lender is working her butt off trying to get everything set for closing in just TWO. WEEKS.

Trevor and I are going to be homeowners in 14 days. Oh my goodness!

Spruce Up Your Bookcases!

Disclaimer: This post contains an affiliate link.

This is Part 2 of a tutorial on how to upgrade your laminate furniture. For the first part - how to paint your laminate furniture - you can visit yesterday's post.

Today, though, you're gonna learn how to bring your bookcases up a notch!

This can be used for any existing bookcases you have that need a little help, though it's much easier to give this treatment to cheap laminate shelves versus a solidly built one.

Here's where your shelves are going to end up after all this.


It's worth it, right?!

At this point in the tutorial, my bookcase has already been painted and didn't have a back nailed back on quite yet. If you're working with an existing bookcase that has a back on it, take it off first.

It'll look something like this:

That's the original color of the bookcase... and you can tell I used the backing to protect my garage floor from paint when I was painting the shelves. All that ugliness got covered up!

Then, head to a nearby fabric store and grab a yard of a coordinating fabric. I went to JoAnn's and happened to find this stuff for 60% off of it's regular price of $19.99/yard. I also picked up a spray adhesive - my favorite is made by Elmer's.

I took my fabric and backing board outside and cut the fabric so it would be able to wrap around the back of the backing board by about an inch.

Then, while kneeling on the fabric to keep it in place, I lifted small sections of the fabric {starting from the middle} and sprayed the adhesive on - following the directions with dry times. I made sure to rub the fabric firmly from the middle out so that any trapped bubbles could get out.

Eventually, the entire front was stuck down so I flipped it over and did the same to the two short ends first followed by the two long sides.

I let the fabric board dry in the sun for a couple hours. It was also good because it allowed everything to air out - boy, that adhesive is potent!

The next day, Trevor nailed the backing board right back where it was before I painted everything - and TA DA!

Let's look again at the finished project.

The fabric and adhesive set me back about $11. Not bad for a significant upcycle, right?

What do you think? Do you have any furniture you want to do this to? Have you done this already?

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Painting Laminate Furniture {and other lengthy tales}

Note: This post contains affiliate links.

I've been wanting to paint two pieces of laminate furniture for a long time. They both lived in our guest room and were mismatched. The dresser was a medium Oak color while the bookcase was a light Birch color. Neither color looked attractive and both had a little wear.

I figured if they were only being used here and there for guests and "decoration", why not try a little paint to bring some life back into them?

So I dragged both into the garage, gathered my supplies, and went to town. After two coats of primer, three coats of paint, and two coats of polycrylic I've refreshed a dresser and a bookcase {that now match!} I couldn't be happier!

Here's how you can do it, too. And don't be intimidated by the number of steps involved. I broke things down pretty darn simply because I wanted to add photos of some of the in-between steps.

 - Go shopping: buy medium to fine grit sandpaper, a primer that can be used on laminate furniture {I did lots of research and ended up with this Zinsser BIN Shellac base one}, a crappy brush for the primer that can be tossed out afterwards, a quart of paint in the color and finish you desire, a nicer brush and/or roller that will be washed and reused, and a polycrylic for the top layer.


- Prep your area. You're going to be painting for a few days, so make sure there's space around you and you don't need to use the area you're painting in while everything is drying. {See the blue in the corner in the photo above? That's an ugly old blanket that protected our garage floor from paint drips.}

- Lightly sand your furniture with your sandpaper. You don't have to go crazy - just a quick once over will do. Then wipe off all the dust and grime with a moist towel. Let air dry.
Yes, I realize this isn't the bookcase... this is a laminate table that I also redid at the same time. It just so happened these pictures turned out about sixteen times better than the photos of the process of the bookcase. Be on the lookout for the table makeover and office reveal in the upcoming weeks!

- Bust out your primer and crappy brush. Paint a light layer on your pieces. It's going to look streaky and horrible and bad... and you're going to curse yourself for even starting such an ugly project. But it gets better, I promise you.

- Let the first coat of primer dry {according to package directions, mine was 45 minutes} and apply a second coat.
Remember that comment about looking streaky after one coat? Yeahhh...

- Let the second coat of primer dry and apply a light layer of your color using your nicer paintbrush. There's going to be a longer dry time on this coat so I suggest tossing your good paintbrush into a zippered plastic bag so you don't have to wash it and it doesn't dry out and ruin the brush..
While this may look gray, it's actually the table after two coats of white primer.  That's what I get for shooting photos in a garage. Lesson learned!

- Let the first coat of color dry according to the package directions and apply a light layer of color again. By now, you should start seeing how lovely your furniture will look when it's not the laminate or a streaky primed piece. It's all coming together - I told you! Note: this was the end of Day 1 for me

- Let the second coat of color dry and apply your last coat of color.

- Let your final coat of color dry {I gave it some extra time between coats just to ensure the paint was dry all the way through} and then apply the first coat of poly with your nice paintbrush that has been washed.

- I waited a couple days between poly coats because the can said to wait at least 24 hours... so I doubled that and called it good. After the two days passed, I applied my final coat of poly.

- I waited three days before even touching the furniture after the final coat of poly was applied. So far, even with moving it around and bumping it into every wall between our guest room and the garage, it's held up just fine. no chips or paint tears here!


This is how the bookcase looks today - nice, right? At the very least it's definitely an improvement over the laminate from before!



Come back tomorrow to see how I transformed the back of the bookcase. Spoiler: it's cheap and easy!

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Hello, hello!

Oh, life.

I have so much to tell you all yet so little that can be shared!

First things first, right?

School: holy moly, I have less than a month until I'm done with work which means it's less than a month until I'm officially on campus with 29 other lucky souls who are abandoning their lives for a year as well. We were assigned three classes to complete before September 20 - and I've only finished one so far... the other two aren't keeping my attention and it's hard to make yourself study when it's beautiful outside! So far, I've bought most of my books - there are only eight left to buy - and I've spent just under a thousand dollars which is pretty darn good, if I say so!


The house situation: Here's where I'm torn.. nothing's for sure yet, but it's such a big thing and I'd like to share some of it with you! Trevor and I put an offer on a home about three weeks ago and after some back and forth, our offer was accepted. As expected, we were thrilled and over the moon about buying our first home. Then, because of a weather delay, we had the home inspection about a week ago which revealed A LOT more "wrong" with the house than previously thought. And of course, it was hard enough to get the seller to agree on a price after our initial offer, so we've been worried sick about what's going to come of this. After a lot of discussion, Trevor and I decided we'd still like to buy the house if four specific things were fixed by the seller. We submitted that amendment yesterday afternoon and now we're playing the waiting game - again. Here's to hoping that the seller agrees to fix the things we asked and that we can still meet our closing date of September 12th. If all goes well, we'll be homeowners in three weeks!

Free time: There hasn't been much of this lately. I've been working extra hours and doing homework or packing up our house when I'm able. Some may say I'm packing too soon, but Trevor and I had to give our 60 day notice to vacate our current rental so whether we move to the house or into an apartment is yet to be decided... but we know we have to move!

Fun stuff: Whitney and I are spending this weekend in Chicago! I'm pretty darn excited to be in my favorite place in the world with a good friend - and for the photoshoots Whit's bound to have. She's got talent, let me tell you! The fact that we're staying at The James doesn't hurt much either. Plus, I may come back 10 pounds heavier, but at least I'll be stuffed with delicious food!

I'm sorry it's been so quiet around here lately! I'm working on a handful more posts for you - now that the news about the house has been shared, more of my posts can go from 'draft' to published!

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Project: Do You #17


Today's Project: Do You post is going to be the last one. I don't know if I should be sad it's over or if I should be excited that everything's checked off!

Let's do a quick run down on how things went:

#1 - Read one book per month. Pretty darn self explanatory, right?

#2 - Work out on a regular basis. I was doing much better at this before my wisdom teeth surgery at the end of June, but since then I've stayed active at home rather than going to the YMCA 3-4 days a week.

#3 - Run a 5K. I ran/walked The Color Run on Sunday with 5 other teammates. We did incredibly well - seriously, I'm so impressed! - and I'm ready to sign up for another one already! It was so.much.fun!!

#4 - Add another 2K to the vacation fund. This one went out the window when a house came into the picture. It would be silly to put money in a fund that we won't use until late 2014 at the earliest, especially because more money that we can put towards a house, the less money we'll be in debt to our mortgage lender!

#5 - Plan a date night ahead of time for each month. This doesn't take a lot of explanation.

#6 - Enjoy a weekend away with Trevor. And it was a relaxing one at that!

#7 - Shape eyebrows. I finally was happy with the shape a few months back... and I've been pretty happy since then, too!

#8 - Finish our wedding scrapbook. I know it didn't say this on the list, but this was a summer goal. Now that summer's over for me, this is done and over with as well. It's not close to being done, but there's just simply much bigger and better fish to fry. I still have everything I need and I may have a scrapbooking weekend with my mom sometime in the future, but it's just not high priority right now.

#9 - Travel more. I had checked this off a while ago and I've since planned another trip to Chicago with Whitney in a couple weeks. I'm excited!

#10 - Learn to say no more often. I put this on the list because I felt that I was kind of getting walked all over at work. I'm still sticking to my guns and saying no when I don't want to pick up extra shifts at the drop of a hat.

#11 - Make more time for crafting. I finished a table, a bookcase, and a dresser within the past week and they look fantastic. I'm also in the middle of finding stuff for a gallery wall {leave links to your favorite free printables in the comments below!!} Crafting is a nice relaxer for me and I'm loving it in my life right now!

#12 - Get out of my comfort zone more often. Rule number one: Nothing about starting an accelerated nursing program with 29 strangers or buying a house is within your comfort zone.

#13 - Share our wedding on the blog. So glad I did this!!

#14 - Attend a concert. Checkity, check. And, Trevor and I are thinking about going to Chicago for another concert the first weekend of October!

#15 - See a Broadway show. BOM was amazing!

#16 - Get hearing tested again/look into surgery. It's good to know where my hearing stands and what my surgical options are. I'm not planning on going under the knife quite yet, but I'm glad I had the appointment.

#17 - Bake someone a birthday cake. I totally didn't skimp on this one! The chocolate cake I baked for Trevor was pretty yummy!

#18 - Go to the beach. What's summer without a little time with your toes in the sand?!

#19 - Forgive. I honestly feel like I've become a better person and that this comes a lot more naturally to me now.

So that's that! The list is done! Are you sad to see it go?

How are your goals coming along?

You can recap my journey by reading all of my Project: Do You posts here.

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Mind Dump

There's been a lot going on around here lately so it's about time for a quick dumping of photos and ideas, right?

Last week, I joined Callie, Whitney, Sheryl, and Jane for a Girl's Night. We ate some yummy, yummy Mexican food and slurped down 2-for-1 margaritas. It was fun to sit around and talk for a couple hours. I love little breaks from life like that!


I've spent countless hours in our garage priming, painting, and sealing three pieces of furniture that I've been meaning to fix up for quite some time. I chose a soft gray for the table and a coordinating gray-blue for the bookcase and the dresser. I can't wait to show you pictures of everything all put back together! But thank goodness you can't see our office right now - the contents of the bookcase and dresser have buried the guest bed and a desk. Oops.

Slowly but surely, our house hunting is coming to an end. If our offer that's currently out there is accepted, we'll be new homeowners next month. If not, then we've agreed to give up the hunt until Spring 2015 - when I'm done with school and there's not three feet of snow on the ground. Pretty soon {aka, within the next week}, any accepted offer will have a closing date of right around when I'm starting school, so that may be a little bit tight time-wise. We are hoping and praying that good news will come from our current situation and that we will have a place to call our own soon. What's meant to be will be but sometimes it's hard to tell just what that is.


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Banana Pancakes {not to be confused with banana hammocks}

Don't ask me why, buts while menu planning earlier this week, I got this idea of making pancakes for Sunday breakfast stuck in my head. No matter what else I tried thinking about, I kept coming back to pancakes. Trevor and I are more pour-me-a-bowl-of-Honey-Nut-Cheerios people and when we're really feeling fancy we go all out with bagels and cream cheese... so my sudden urge to whip up a batch of pancakes at the crack of dawn came as a surprise.

I searched all over Pinterest, food.com, recipe.com, and any other site that had pancake recipes because I was dead set on not making heavy sit-in-your-gut-till-dinner cakes. I found a few recipes that I tweaked and combined to bring you today's recipe:

Dairy Free, Oil Free, Egg Free, Could Easily Be Made Gluten Free, No Added Sugar, Vegan Banana Pancakes


They look pretty darn good, right? Ohhh, they were, friends, oh they were.

Here's what you need to make your own - keep in mind this is enough for two people so if you're feeding your brood you will want to at least double everything:

3/4 cup dry oatmeal {old fashioned oats and quick oats are both fine but use a GF version if your diet requires it}
3/4 cup almond milk {you could sub any type of milk for this, but I have a small obsession with almond milk so that's what I chose}
1 yellow banana {here's your chance to use up those overripe bananas!}
1/4 cup whole wheat flour {you could sub any type of flour here if you need GF or have other dietary restrictions}
1 tbsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. baking powder
a "splash" of vanilla
a pinch of salt
optional: 1 1/2 tsp. cocoa powder, 1/4 cup chocolate chips, 1/4 cup pecans

Grab your blender or food processor. Put everything in except the banana {and chocolate chips or pecans if you're using those}. Blend until smooth. Then add the banana and blend again until smooth. Add your chocolate chips and/or pecans now, if you are using them.

Spoon your batter onto a preheated griddle {or pan}. I set my stove to 4 out of 10 - basically a little cooler than medium. When you see the batter getting bubbles on top of the pancakes, flip those babies over! Remove from heat when both sides are nice and toasty brown.

Repeat, repeat, repeat. Then eat!

I served mine with berries and whipped cream {which obviously negates the no-dairy thing, but you don't have to add it!} because we had both in the fridge and I'm not a huge maple syrup person but you can eat them however you like. Heck, smother them with peanut butter and eat them proudly if you so desire!

Enjoy!

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Lemon Sugar Scrub

I don't know about you, but it's around this time every summer that I start ignoring my feet.

You know what I mean, when you start pretending they're perfect, beautiful, lovely, etc... without looking at them. I mean, they've been in sandals for a couple months now, almost exclusively, so you know what they look like. No need to look any closer. You've painted your toenails every pretty shade that comes up on Pinterest so you know they've gotta look like a million bucks, right?!

Right.         I mean, wrong.

I got a little more up close and personal the other day with my feet and let me tell you it wasn't a pretty sight! The bottoms of my feet and my heels have skin that is peeling off them {TMI? Nah.} and the balls of my feet have seen better days, that's for sure.

It was a day I was at home, being productive {read: searching for house after house after house that resembled something we could see ourselves in} and I wasn't about to head to the mall for a pedicure or even a fancy foot scrub. Instead, I raided my kitchen for what has now become my favorite body scrub ever!

It's cheap to make, you most likely have most {if not all!} of the ingredients on hand right now, and it's incredibly effective.

Seriously, bookmark this baby right now. Go ahead and pin this sucker! It makes a great gift in a small jar with a new polish or two, I'm tellin' ya! Just try it!


Here's what you need:

- a jar to store your scrub in
- 1 ripe lemon
- olive oil
- white table sugar

It's simple: mix two parts sugar to one part oil (1 cup sugar and 1/2 cup oil) - then add in sugar or oil to get to your desired consistency. I like the 2:1 ratio for my feet, but if I make a face scrub I generally like more sugar and less oil. Add the juice of your lemon. If you're making a small batch, just use the juice from half a lemon.

Mix it all up, spoon it into your jar {or, if you were smart, you started mixing everything together in the jar itself}, and scrub all your dead skin away!


Make sure your jar has a lid that seals and store it in the fridge for extra freshness. It will solidify at colder temperatures because of the oil, but that quickly goes away when you use it in the shower or let it warm up a little before use.

If you like lemon as much as I do, check out this scrumptious treat sure to please all!


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