Things I’ve Learned About Decorating

January 23, 2014

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I was soooooo excited to move into that 800 square foot one bedroom back in 2005!

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Since then, I have learned a lot about my own decorating style. The following are not golden rules for decorating – I am always changing what I like, and I am certainly no interior decorator. But as I have had more years to play house, this is what I have learned about my own decorating style.

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Seek Inspiration

I am always looking for inspiration. I’m not the best as visualizing potential. I can’t walk into a dilapidated house and see how gorgeous it could be with some paint and knocked down walls. But I can study examples and replicate them with my own spin. I love Houzz for drool-worthy photos and great articles, HGTV magazine and Better Homes & Gardens for their house tours, and the Ballard Designs, West Elm, Crate + Barrel and Pottery Barn catalogs to browse before bed. They have all taught me a lot about what I like and don’t like.

Stick With One Color Scheme

When we bought our first house, I was into bold colors. We painted our living room bright orange and our dining room next to it a dark green. Talk about contrast!

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After years of studying magazines, I’ve realized that I like calming ocean colors – shades of blue and seafoam green. Bright white. Soft gray.

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Rather than having a different color in each room, I now prefer to have the whole house feel like it’s part of the same wardrobe.

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Natural And Vintage Materials Rule

Sea grass, reclaimed wood, burlap, blue glass – I love them all!! They add character to otherwise boring IKEA décor.

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Invest In things That Hold Things

Boxes, chests, storage baskets, etc. Storage rules the world, and I have tried to create space in boxes big and small.

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From our built in IKEA bookcases…

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To the vintage boxes and baskets in the laundry room…

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To the Mazen’s wannabe vintage toy box

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Use Bold Colors Sparingly

I’ve been trying to use yellow as a pop of color for ages, but it just never worked upstairs because of our beachy feel. But yellow has finally found its home: the guest bathroom! It’s a modern masculine space that needed to be more cheerful, and cheerful is exactly what the yellow brought.

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Don’t Buy Terrycloth Hand Towels

For years I’ve been buying terrycloth hand towels for the bathrooms but they never looked very nice to me. Then it dawned on me one day when I was browsing BHG – hand towels in magazines are rarely terrycloth! Since then I’ve started using an assortment of vintage linens and modern dish towels that have more pattern and texture, and I like the look so much more. 

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White Is Bright

I like that gray wall, but sometimes I just want to paint everything bright white! The houses I love most in magazines have all white walls with colors in the furniture and décor and tons of natural light. I know white can be boring, but it’s what I like most at the moment. If that gray wall didn’t threaten to take 10 coats, I just might do it!

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Beach Cottage + Farmhouse = Me

The style I like best is a mix of beach cottage and farmhouse with just a dash of modern thrown in (like the green shade above!) I love the natural materials, light, airy colors and the character cottages and farmhouses get from moldings and nooks. We are thinking of doing some DIY board and batten in the living room above for a bit more character. 

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What is your home style? Do you love bright colors? Venetian columns? Red dining rooms?

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{ 66 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Linz @ Itz Linz January 23, 2014 at 8:41 am

SO CUTE! i don’t have a single decorating bone in my body – itz not something i’m good at nor is it something i enjoy – i look to my mom and sister for all of my decorating needs; they both have quite the creative eye! (they’re designing my nursery for baby itz! lucky to have them!)

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2 Jackie January 23, 2014 at 8:43 am

I love your style it looks so calming!

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3 Ashley @ Saving Money in your Twenties January 23, 2014 at 8:44 am

I love your style! I’ve only lived in apartments so far, so I haven’t tried to decorate too much. My bf and I still have a lot of hand me down items that we’re using, but it’s good to see which of those items we really love and which we probably wouldn’t have chosen for ourselves! I can’t wait to have my own place where I paint the walls… it will be interesting to see how our decorating style evolves!

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4 Katie @ Peace Love & Oats January 23, 2014 at 8:51 am

I think I might have to pin this post – some great advice and ideas! I love having a neutral base and then pops of colors. I live in a studio in Chicago so having one general color scheme is obviously necessary… haha, and storage is key! .

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5 Elizabeth January 23, 2014 at 9:02 am

I am very similar to your transition of decorating. I use to love BOLD. The bolder the better I use to say. Now I am loving those beach and cooler colors with a splash of color. My splash color is typically teal or a dark purple.

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6 eliza January 23, 2014 at 9:03 am

LOVE your style. I also love rich dark brown antiquey furniture thru out my house.

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7 Katie January 23, 2014 at 9:12 am

I’m having such a hard time decorating right now because my little guy is into everything!! But I love the bright colors! Your house looks amaaaazing. I’ll just call you up when I need some designing help ;)

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8 Katie @ Talk Less, Say More January 23, 2014 at 9:38 am

I love the way you decorate! I’m not that big on white (though I think that’s more because as a renter I can’t have it any other color!) but I love the simplicity of your decorations but where it still looks so pretty and welcoming!

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9 Megan January 23, 2014 at 9:41 am

I LOVE the beach cottage + farmhouse look in general, and definitely now want to move into your house! I had no idea what I was doing years ago when I decorated our apartment, and I’m just too lazy/uninspired to change anything, so I’ve lived with it for 6 years. Sometimes, I wish that I could just throw everything out and start fresh, and go with bright whites and pops of color, with some vintage pieces thrown in to make it feel more cozy.

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10 Becca January 23, 2014 at 9:44 am

Oh I love that grey wall!

I know all white is appealing, but add a splash of bold color (like the yellow in your bathroom downstairs… and the grey wall in your otherwise light and airy kitchen (and the green light shade)) really adds that modern flair to an otherwise beachy-cottagey-farm-housey. I think the grey wall looks really great!

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11 Fancy January 23, 2014 at 9:55 am

Great post Kath! I love when you focus on home “stuff”. I would love to see an updated version of your “Home Neat Home” post with how your house is organized and where you keep everything now that you are in a different home! Xo

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12 Candice January 23, 2014 at 10:01 am

I like your home decor and home organizing posts! What is on your decorating/improvement wish list?

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13 KathEats January 23, 2014 at 12:49 pm

Moldings! I’d love to install crown molding, but I think it’s a bit above our DIY skill set. What isn’t, though, is board + batten and I really want to put some in our living area and the hallway a la Young House Love, but it’s been on my mind for 2 months and I have yet to find the time : )

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14 Anele @ Success Along the Weigh January 23, 2014 at 10:13 am

My tastes are very similar to yours. Though that isn’t how my main living area is decorated. It’s a medium green (a mistake color I’ve chosen to live with for 7 years…that’s changing this year) and lots of honey wood that has aged to a kind of orangey color that I’m not fond of anymore. I’m thinking of getting a sprayer and repainting the armoires and tables white to save money. THAT should be interesting!

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15 Lauren @ Lettuce Eat Cake January 23, 2014 at 10:19 am

I, too, eagerly painted our first apartment in lots of bold colors. Thankfully I found YHL before we bought our house. :) I can’t thank design blogs enough for teaching me how to find my style.

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16 Ali January 23, 2014 at 10:32 am

I love your decorating style! I also love soft greys and white and vintage items with burlap. I am never brave with bright colors but I do love them when I see them. I went out of my comfort zone this year and ombre painted one wall of my bedroom and I love it.

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17 Matt January 23, 2014 at 10:46 am

Man I still vividly remember the feel and the smell of moving into that apartment after college!

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18 Florence January 23, 2014 at 10:50 am

Your home is beautiful! Great tips! The biggest thing for me when decorating is incorporating pieces with lots of sentimental value– from the antique cradle that was in my grandmother’s house when my mom was a kid to the rather ugly paintings I make with friends.

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19 Emma January 23, 2014 at 11:00 am

I like your style so much! While your home is cleaner than mine will ever be, I think what I like best about it is that all the fresh, modern, crisp style – the whites and brights – don’t feel stark and frigid, but rather light and comfortable. I’m more of a nester, so we have some mediterranean blues in the bed and bath, which feels cozy to me.

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20 Liz @ Tip Top Shape January 23, 2014 at 11:48 am

I am major crushing on that bookshelf now! It holds so much!!

I have to say – I absolutely love your style. I would be happy to have any room in my house styled like yours!

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21 Marisa @ Uproot from Oregon January 23, 2014 at 11:54 am

I love what you have done with your home- it is very welcoming, calming, and relaxed! Especially with Mazen running around, I don’t know how you keep it so clean and crisp looking :)

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22 Lauren @ Focused To Be Fit January 23, 2014 at 12:29 pm

I still struggle with decorating and putting things together. I definitely love soft colors more than bold and your vintage touches are amazing. I think the more you do it, the more comfortable you get in expressing your design for things!

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23 Julie Rosene January 23, 2014 at 12:29 pm

Your home decor looks a lit like mine- beachy, cottage-y, calming and natural with a modern touch. When we were house hunting I was obsessed with the Houzz website! So many ideas!

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24 Lindsay January 23, 2014 at 12:30 pm

I am still figuring out my style, but I know it has one key note: Whimsical. I adore displaying our collectibles from world travel, favorite photo moments, and figuring out how to do this with apartment life! We move every 2 years (military family) so I get to play and reinvent a lot…but I also don’t spend a whole lot of money just yet on key items because the possibility of being destroyed in a move or it not fitting in our newest space is always there! I play up vintage modern with pops of color downstairs, and in our bedroom I always choose calming colors.

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25 Theresa January 23, 2014 at 12:31 pm

I LOVE your tip about bathroom towels, so smart!

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26 Cate January 23, 2014 at 1:11 pm

I love this post. It took me a while to discover my own decorating style as well. My mom is very into Victorian styles and so I gravitated toward very frilly stuff when I was first on my own. My husband’s mom is really into country styles, so our house was a weird mishmash. Over time our styles have evolved and we have a modern cottage style going on. Lots of springlike colors (bright but not scary), different woods, fabrics, and textures.

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27 Emily January 23, 2014 at 1:29 pm

I love love love your style – very beautiful! I see your house and wish we hadn’t gone SO bold with ours!

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28 Dana @ Conscious Kitchen Blog January 23, 2014 at 2:02 pm

I’d say my style is pretty similar to yours – farmhouse & beachy, with a touch a glam. I love a good sparkle! We just moved into our first house and I’m having so much fun figuring out what decorating style to do.

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29 Livi January 23, 2014 at 2:36 pm

I love the natural look of your house! Farmhouse chic!

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30 Liz January 23, 2014 at 2:45 pm

I love your style! Mine is quite similar. Can you send me the link to your Ikea built in bookcase…it looks great!!

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31 KathEats January 23, 2014 at 3:13 pm

It’s the Billy Bookcase with glass door option. 2 double wides and a single wide in the middle

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32 carrie January 23, 2014 at 2:56 pm

Isn’t it amazing how much our tastes change over time?! My current house compared to my last house compared to my first apartment are sooo different. I went from one extreme to the next. Modern to country to traditional. Love this post and your decorating.

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33 Kelly January 23, 2014 at 3:00 pm

That grey wall was my absolute favorite thing about your new house! I LOVE IT, along with the green shade in the dining room.

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34 Sara January 23, 2014 at 3:17 pm

Cozy is our home “style!” We have a lot of hand-me-downs still. My sister-in-law is getting married in November and we plan to give some of our excess things to her, which will help lighten our load. We really have too much furniture and things at the moment! It’s amazing how style and taste can change after being in a space for awhile too. We’ve been in our house five years (in March) and I sometimes wonder what I was thinking when we opted to paint a room a certain color or chose something or other for our house.

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35 Hillary B January 23, 2014 at 4:19 pm

You will love this quiz: http://www.sproost.com/

You rate each room on how much you like/love/hate it, and at the end it tells you what your home design aesthetic is. My results were 50% traditional country, followed by 25% wine country and 25% mountain lodge. I love warm, cozy fall colors like sage or cranberry, dark or cherry wood, and a huge stone fireplace in a home!

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36 KathEats January 23, 2014 at 5:23 pm

Cool! Going to take it now

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37 KathEats January 23, 2014 at 5:27 pm

I’m 50% Nantucket, 38% Cottage Chic and 12% Modern Elegance!

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38 Melanie January 23, 2014 at 4:30 pm

Hi Kath! I love this post of yours… and I thought it was funny, but I’ve described my taste as country home on the beach, however I love to throw in lots of greenery from plants and such. And my mother is an antiques dealer, so I often get to pillage through her goods before they go on sale for my “old, rustic” touches ;)

I have to ask, that very first painting you posted of the farm field… I am in love with it! I thought it was very Van Gogh like, but I don’t think it is a Van Gogh. Could you tell me who the artist is? I can’t stop thinking about how good it makes me feel to look at it! Thanks for your help.

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39 KathEats January 23, 2014 at 5:23 pm

We bought it in Sonoma on our honeymoon. It is supposed to be Starry Night over vineyards. Unfortunately I don’t know the artist. Wish I did!

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40 Connie January 25, 2014 at 9:09 am

Did you happen to buy it at a small gift shop in downtown Sonoma? I bought something that looks very similar in 2007.

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41 KathEats January 25, 2014 at 12:59 pm

I’m pretty sure yes!!! I’d love to see yours. Ours was 2007 too.

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42 Kelly January 23, 2014 at 6:01 pm

Great pictures!! I am still so in love with your back porch!!!

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43 Meggie@My Grace-Full Life January 23, 2014 at 6:55 pm

I love your style! I still think I am figuring mine out. Its a work in progress! I am wondering what you think of your indoor/outdoor rugs from Ballard Designs? I have been considering them as indoor rugs but wondered if they were super scratchy for a little one to play on?

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44 KathEats January 23, 2014 at 8:45 pm

They have been great!! They aren’t scratchy, although I would recommend a pad under them since they are thin. It’s amazing how well spills have come up from the one in the kitchen play area.

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45 Josephine January 23, 2014 at 7:06 pm

Big furniture purchases scare me, rarely do you find furniture reviews online. Do you think you will replace the striped couch soon, where would you look?

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46 KathEats January 23, 2014 at 8:44 pm

I just had it cleaned, actually, the the man raved about how well built it was. It was once Karen’s (in the 90s!) but I still like it. It doesn’t really fit our style these days, but I can’t see changing it quite yet. I’d look at Pottery Barn, West Elm, Crate + Barrel, CB2, Ballard Designs, and those kind of stores.

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47 Amanda January 23, 2014 at 8:06 pm

Hi Kath,
I think your house is beautiful.

I do love the grey wall too as others have said. But I wanted to let you know that if you do decide to paint the darker wall, it really isn’t that hard. Use Behr Ultra from Home Depot and it will cover in two coats no problem. It is a paint and primer in one and it’s low VOC. Its awesome. The trick to is wait 24 hours in between coats.

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48 Betsy January 23, 2014 at 8:12 pm

Kath – have you done your fare share of interior painting, or do you usually hire out help? I’d like to save some money and paint some walls myself, but I haven’t a clue what I’m doing. If you have tips or site recommendations, please share!

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49 KathEats January 23, 2014 at 8:43 pm

We have done both. We painted the walls in our first house and our master bedroom here and hired a painter to do 4 of the rooms here when we moved in. I will say that our painter did a heck of a better job than we did!! I have no good tips, but you should check out Young House Love for tips on paint : )

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50 Ali January 23, 2014 at 8:41 pm

When I bought my house last summer, I decorated every room differently but it all kind of goes together and still flows nicely. I like bold colors and warm tans because it feels warmer in my cold climate, white is SO stark against the white snow outside for 6 months of the year. I think I would almost feel bored if everything looked so similar throughout the house, but I think this comes from renting apartments with white, white, white for so long. When I bought, I wanted nothing to be white and every room to feel like a different destination without sacrificing the integrity of the house.

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51 Michelle @ A Healthy Mrs January 23, 2014 at 9:51 pm

I love classic neutrals with pops of contemporary color! And I think board & batten would look great in your living space!

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52 sarah @ hairwaytovegan January 24, 2014 at 1:30 am

Your house is so well decorated. I love your tip about the dishtowels in the bathroom, your right they really do look so much nicer. I like that they just lay flat rather than poof out a bit. Cant wait til I get a bigger apartment to decorate, as of right now I’m in a 400 sq foot 1 bedroom, OOF!

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53 Jelena@ThoseLittleThings January 24, 2014 at 4:29 am

Since we are still renting and paint by ourselves, we paint our walls white (it is pretty simple and can not go wrong). We have white/green color scheme from IKEA and bright laminate floors, so our flat looks bigger than it is. I gave some personal touch to it with vintage details from my grandma`s house (golden teacups, old fashioned frames, etc)

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54 Beki January 24, 2014 at 4:33 am

I just had to save this post as I’m buying my first flat at the moment, and I love your style! Especially the beach house + farmhouse bit, that’s totally me too :) I’ve created a Pinterest board to try and brainstorm some ideas, but may have to use this post as inspiration too!
Thanks x

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55 seana January 24, 2014 at 7:15 am

I’m with you on less of bold and more warmth/brightness with pops of color-just not paint on the wall. We started a project this week which means we hired someone to do it. Redoing 2 bathrooms (1/2 bath and kids upstairs). I had a dark olivey green in one and a dark captain’s blue in the other. Switching to comfortable off white on walls and bright white trim for contrast. I would bet that your gray wall would probably only take 2 coats of paint. That’s all these dark colors took. I was surprised. We bought Valspar satin at Lowes, a little thicker than some we’ve used but the coverage is fantastic. Hopefully it gets done today and the new fixtures and mirrors go up. Not sure what I am going to do about curtains? I’m going to need some color, the 1/2 bath is getting that brushed bronze fixtures along with a beautiful mirror. Unstairs is silver but the sink it a darkish blue with a white vanity. Decisions decisions.

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56 Emily January 24, 2014 at 10:59 am

Hi Kath! Your home is beautiful! I’m mostly interested in the painting you have hanging on the gray? Wall? With blue and green swirly clouds/sky and what seems to look like a vineyard and a tree? I would love to get a print for my home too! Thanks in advance.

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57 KathEats January 24, 2014 at 2:46 pm

We bought it on our honeymoon in Sonoma. Unfortunately I don’t know the name of the artist

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58 RunEatRepeat January 24, 2014 at 2:21 pm

This looks like a magazine!

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59 char eats greens January 24, 2014 at 8:33 pm

Love all of your lovely pictures of your decor! I love rustic paired with modern. Like, absolutely love reclaimed wood! When money isn’t an issue, I really plan to decorate, but for now we have to make do with what we have. I love the idea of more storage, and I think that’s where I’ll start first (mainly because it’s a practical place to start!)

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60 Danielle January 25, 2014 at 11:27 pm

I absolutely love your house and always look forward to posts like this from you. I think we have a similar style because I am also drawn to beachy/farmhouse with a little modern thrown in.

If those hand towels aren’t terrycloth, what fabric are they made of? That’s a great tip!

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61 KathEats January 26, 2014 at 7:44 am

They are dish towels for the kitchen so they are cotton I think

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62 Chrissy January 26, 2014 at 4:14 am

Hi, I am wondering how you made your Ikea bookcases into built-ins. Was it a lot of work?

My personal style seems to involve Ikea + Pottery Barn + antiques + thrift store finds + lots of DIY. I over Emily Henderson’s blog!

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63 KathEats January 26, 2014 at 7:45 am

Not a lot of work at all. They don’t have any special trim. They’re just all together and bolted to the wall

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64 Debbie @ Deb Runs January 26, 2014 at 8:53 pm

Love your style and your soothing colors!

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65 Sam January 30, 2014 at 11:46 pm

My style is exactly the same as yours with a little bit of modern rustic thrown in.

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66 Jeri April 20, 2014 at 9:36 pm

How I missed this post I will never know. You must be my soulmate twin sister! I had/am transistionting (sp) from bold and traditional colors to more beachy or neutral colors. I live on a lake and want to embrace the water inside and out. I subscribe to Costal Living which most of the houses have all white or neutral rooms and pops of yellows and blues.

I really think you have opened that nervous door to explore and start making my house more into a home.

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