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There are times when starting with a blank slate can be downright terrifying. Even more so? Combining ‘blank slate’ with ‘garden.’ With these two, that’s not only terrifying, but almost laughable. But! Spoiler alert – we survived (with a lot of help!) and have a teeny, baby garden to show for it.

Let’s back up.

With nothing but rain in the forecast last week, spotty showers over the weekend and more rain to come, our plans to stain our front porch floor went out the window – fast. (And with thunderstorms on the horizon for the coming weekend, it’s looking like all signs point to another week of hell no.) In any case, we didn’t want that to get us down, so we moved forward with another outdoor agenda – the garden!

Our front yard needed a pick me up, and we needed someone to tell us what to do. When it comes to anything leafy, we’d rather not over think it (for once) and dive in with some instruction. And so, after snapping a handful of photos on our phones and jotting down measurements, we went to Sprout Home, one of our favorite city nurseries with a great selection of perennialsperennial being the operative word, as we wanted a good base for layering in annuals as our moods and tastes change each year.

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We talked with one of the specialists, Michael, for a long, long time – waffling here and there, but trusting his input and advice on what won’t work, what will work, and what we should keep in mind for the future. In the end, we came home with ONE) 2 Juniper Witchita Evergreens, TWO) 3 Green Velvet Boxwoods, THREE) 5 Blue Fescues and FOUR) 5 lavender plants.

Using the evergreen trees as our jumping off point, we stuck with a mostly blue-green leafy theme and worked on our levels – trees and shrubs in the back (which will grow, grow, grow!) and the more wild blue fescue and lavender up front along the grass line. These plants would be our starting point, and next year, Michael suggested that we could add color in the middle once everything had a chance to take root and fill out.

The next day, we worked on the actual shape of the garden, starting with a wider base where it meets the concrete (5′ deep) and getting smaller where it meets up with the edge of our home (2.5′ deep).

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We planted everything according to the instructions, and after a lot (and I mean a lot) of debate, we ended up using garden edging to keep everything separate from the grass. In all honesty, we had planned on installing a small walkway across the front of the garden (to connect the front of our house to the back without leaving a wear pattern on the still non-existent grass), but decided to nix it – for now. Full disclosure, that decision was based on the mounting costs, exhaustion and the insane amount of supplies needed.

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In the meantime, we decided to give ourselves a lush patch of grass in the front for the cost of 3 bags of lawn soil and this Turf Builder. We picked up a hand held grass seeder and went to town (again, following the bag’s instructions) after digging up all the weeds (which left us with a bare lawn!) and raking in a thick layer of top soil. If we decide that omg, we have to have a sidewalk!, then it’s certainly something we can add next year!

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For fun, can we take a look back to the start of the season? (Eww!)

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And now? A garden! A little baby garden that’ll grow up (some day) and a big patch of dirt that’ll sprout pretty green grass (some day); we’ve got ourselves a painted porch, an unstained floor (for now!), and…

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… Caps on those beat up cinder blocks!

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While our garden is in the very early stages, the staff at Sprout suggested that we keep our eyes open during the course of the summer, making note of any colorful plants that catch our eye. We told Michael that we loved the look of purple Salvia, and he agreed that it would be a great filler for the middle row once our boxwoods have had a chance to beef up. Next year! (Patience, patience.)

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If the rain can hold off for the weekend, we’d like to get the rest of the porch floor stained, but we really doubt it’ll be dry enough to do so (and we’d like to avoid peeling paint/stain down the road; it’s all about the prep!). Never mind, we’ve got a punch list that doesn’t want to shrink and baseboards that need paint (yup, still). But! Here’s how we’re shaping up out front:

Swap out the old outdoor lights for new ones
Paint the front door
Paint/Stain the porch floor
Finish the staircase hand rail
Paint the staircase – that is, once the pressure treated wood has dried (boo)
Top the downstairs cinder blocks with caps
Garden!
Install a path from the pavement to the side of our home, alongside the garden (NOPE)
Porch swing!

Rain, rain, go away… anyone?

PS… the blurry paper in our transom window is our test template for address numbers! We decided on the matte gold Americana style from House Number Lab. They’re currently on order, and we can. Not. Wait.

  • Paige @ Lux Per Diem - June 26, 2014 - 7:37 AM

    It looks so much better! Great job!ReplyCancel

  • Rachel - June 26, 2014 - 8:29 AM

    Love your new plants- what excellent choices you made and I love the placement and everything. So nice :-)
    Hoping for a rain free weekend for you all. And I hope CC is feeling better!ReplyCancel

    • Kim - June 26, 2014 - 10:11 AM

      Thanks, Rachel! CC is back to acting like her usual self, but she is NOT loving her pill routine 3x a day! We did, however, pick up Pill Pockets, and they changed our lives. Thanks to everyone who recommended that!ReplyCancel

  • Julia@Cukoo4Design - June 26, 2014 - 8:32 AM

    Looks so good!ReplyCancel

  • Laura @ Rather Square - June 26, 2014 - 8:55 AM

    What a difference! I think it’s a great start so far. The plants you chose should fill in the space nicely. We’re working on our front yard too, but haven’t gotten as polished as you yet (probably next year we’ll take a more focused approach). We did plant grass like you did though. Tip: it may take a while to come in (and may not come in evenly at first). Be patient – ours is finally growing!ReplyCancel

    • Kim - June 26, 2014 - 10:49 AM

      Good to know! I’m so sad that there isn’t really anything growing yet, but… patience!ReplyCancel

  • Heather - June 26, 2014 - 9:02 AM

    What a great start. It such fun to watch a garden develop. In the meantime, you can always add a few hanging baskets from the porch. I can see two boston ferns or petunia baskets.ReplyCancel

    • Kim - June 26, 2014 - 10:10 AM

      Scott really, really wants some ferns, so I think we’ll likely end up with some!ReplyCancel

  • Amanda G - June 26, 2014 - 10:44 AM

    It looks so good! Maybe a small stepping stone path might be an easier/cheaper solution than a full path. Can’t wait to see more updates!ReplyCancel

  • Jaimie - June 26, 2014 - 1:20 PM

    Aw, it’s a great start! Our house was covered in vines when we moved in last summer, and that was about it for “landscaping”. We pulled down the vines immediately after closing (they were growing through the attic vents and siding), but we waited till this spring to start adding some new plants in. I’ve been trying to stick with native species, since they’re drought tolerant and beneficial to the native fauna, but I picked up a few naturalized ones as well.ReplyCancel

    • Kim - June 26, 2014 - 2:20 PM

      SMART MOVE. If it wasn’t for the help we got at Sprout, who knows what we would have ended up with!ReplyCancel

  • Hannah - June 26, 2014 - 1:52 PM

    Maybe you’ve covered this elsewhere and I missed it, but are you painting those pesky baseboards by hand? Or are you using your paint sprayer + tons of masking the floors and walls? We are confronting the same decision and are not sure what might be faster in the long run!ReplyCancel

    • Kim - June 26, 2014 - 2:22 PM

      A little bit of hand, a little bit of roller. For every room so far EXCEPT the living room, I’ll set up the baseboards on saw horses and roll them with paint, then when they’re installed, I’ll touch them up. For the living room, we just wanted to get them up there (and the lengths were SO long), so I’ll be painting them on my hands and knees. (Yuck!) I’m not convinced that spraying them would be worth it after having to tape off SO much – but that’s just my take! I’d love to know if anyone else has done it that way! At this point, we’re trying to take it one step at a time, but as I’m sure you can sense, the baseboards aren’t my favorite task…ReplyCancel

      • Hannah - July 7, 2014 - 7:32 AM

        Thanks for this information! Since we are painting every.thing. in the apartment we’re moving into, we might try the sprayer (since we wouldn’t have to mask the walls, just the floor, since the walls are getting painted anyway?) The whole hands-and-knees-whole-house thing seems like a major drag. Good luck with your living room painting – all the trim is looking fabulous, it’s worth it!ReplyCancel

        • Kim - July 7, 2014 - 9:40 AM

          Just a heads up that we’ve learned – too much of semi-gloss overspray from painting the baseboards can be a bitch to roll over with a more matte wall paint. It will usually take at least an extra coat of wall paint to cover the semi-gloss, so I’d still try to be as careful as possible with the sprayer. Best of luck! It will be SO worth it in the end.ReplyCancel

  • Looks great! Waiting is by far the hardest part! (Reasons I prefer renovation/building over landscaping.)

    You’ll surely get some weeds in your new grass thanks to that fertile top soil. Aaron likes to do a Weed and Feed treatment each spring and fall. It makes a huge difference! I’m not sure if there’s a particular brand he likes, but I can ask him if you want.ReplyCancel

    • Kim - June 30, 2014 - 9:49 AM

      Oops, Heather, I found your comment in spam! We did use Weed and Feed in our backyard to tame the CRAZY weeds, but it seemed to also kill a lot of our grass… we are such newbies in the outdoor department!ReplyCancel

  • Megan - June 26, 2014 - 3:52 PM

    Nicely done!! I love purple salvia and mine grew quick! I bought a $1 clearance plant three years ago at Lowes and it doubled the next summer and is now at least tripled in size. Bees love it too!!ReplyCancel

  • Melanie - June 28, 2014 - 1:01 AM

    Looks great! I wish my boyfriend would put as much effort into deciding on plants. He loves to just buy them and throw them in willy nilly. Its annoying…ReplyCancel

  • Mikki - June 30, 2014 - 3:49 PM

    Great start! I like your selections. Already a huge difference in your curb appeal. Just a thought from someone who has landscaped many a home… grass seed is very tough to grow this time of year and you may get spotty and average results. For a quick and instant improvement… just roll out some sod on your topsoil. It is such a small space… won’t cost much and will look so much better instantly. Just have to keep it watered. Good Luck with the porch staining!ReplyCancel

    • Kim - July 1, 2014 - 11:07 AM

      Thanks, Mikki! We did consider sod, but just decided to give grass seed a shot instead. We have had SO MUCH rain in the last couple of weeks, and the grass is growing ling a champion! We’ll have to see how it holds up, but we will definitely consider sod if our efforts don’t turn out as lush as we’d like.ReplyCancel

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With those backwards steps we took in our funny little nook, we’ve been on the hunt for the perfect reading chair. Comfortable. Cushy. Curl-up-able. I’ve been keeping my eyes wide open and shooting Scott links when “I’ve found The One!,” only to read through reviews and see that it’s too stiff, too tiny or too un-curl-up-able. (On a side note, when reader Katherine told us about this one [in grey], we fell in love, took measurements and try as we might, we could not make a 42″ depth work.)

We’ve searched Craigslist for something in need of new upholstery. We’ve been checking in on flash sale sites, Ebay and obvious online retailers. (And yes, of course, we’ve plunked down on a handful in the stores!) But when Chairish reached out to us and asked if we’d had a chance to look around – and hey, do you want to team up and give away $100, too? – we found ourselves falling down the internet rabbit hole. Chairs! Tables! Dressers and mirrors and bar carts!

I’ve poked around on Chairish in the past, but most recently, they’ve gathered up a Chicago City Guide of brick and mortar vintage must-sees. Our standing favorite, Humboldt House, made the list (if you go, say hi! to the shop Pittie, Archie!), as well as a handful of new-to-us spots. And since we love this city with our whole heart and soul, we online shopped ’til our hearts content for Chicago only finds:

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Chairish is a (very) well curated buy-and-sell website, but it’s full of the best of the best. No wading, no sifting. Needless to say, we found more than our fair share of goodies (you can see our collection here), and we’ve found ourselves going back to this Milo Baughman Lounger a few times, #7 below. (Is this a sign?)

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Not to mention, since a large majority of the goods on Chairish are big, beautiful vintage pieces, shopping locally will save you big time on shipping (just search by city on the menu bar and select local pick-up. Word on the street is that they’re working hard to get that city count up, up, up!).

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But! Back to that whole $100 thing. Starting today, enter here for a chance to win $100 to spend with Chairish! Giveaway runs through Wednesday, July 9th, and the winner will be randomly selected and emailed with the happy news. Good luck and happy entering!

Now, does that chair belong in our nook? (If so, does it need upholstery?) Or maybe we should empty out one of our storage filled rooms by selling some items ourselves? (Bonus: Chairish also has a super friendly iPhone app to make selling a breeze!)

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While all opinions belong to these two, we want to thank Chairish for partnering with us on this post. (Thank you, Chairish!)

 

  • Laura @ Rather Square - June 25, 2014 - 6:46 AM

    That chair does look comfy! What color/material would you re-upholster it with?ReplyCancel

    • Kim - June 25, 2014 - 8:01 AM

      Definitely something soft and muted, since it would go in the green nook! The cost of upholstery plus the chair though? Can’t decide!ReplyCancel

  • Julia@Cukoo4Design - June 25, 2014 - 8:09 AM

    Goodies! Love it all. Want the bar cart!ReplyCancel

  • Julia at Home on 129 Acres - June 25, 2014 - 11:38 AM

    I’ve been very pleasantly surprised by Ikea’s Strandmon (see my post at http://homeon129acres.wordpress.com/2013/09/23/birthday-wish-come-true/). Its curlupability is high IMHO. The width of the seat, the angle of the back, the support of the wings is really quite wonderful. You do need a foot stool or ottoman to prop your feet up.ReplyCancel

    • Kim - June 25, 2014 - 2:16 PM

      Thanks, Julia! I’ve been thinking about that chair, too. So many styles, so many decisions. We’re paralyzed!ReplyCancel

  • Alexis - June 25, 2014 - 11:57 AM

    I think you’d need to see the colors of the chair in person, but those tan/orange(?) colors might look really lovely in the little nook. It looks super comfy!
    Happy hunting!ReplyCancel

  • Claire Tibbs - June 25, 2014 - 2:15 PM

    You guys!!! Thank you thank you for loving Humboldt House AND most importantly Archie! He loves those chocolate chunks too! Let’s have a puppy play date soon!

    Muah!
    Claire & ArchieReplyCancel

    • Kim - June 25, 2014 - 3:15 PM

      We’ll have to bring the Chunk to the store next time we stop by! I think Archie and CC would find true love.ReplyCancel

  • Deb - June 26, 2014 - 7:54 PM

    I have that coral pillow and I adore it! Many other items have been banished from my living room for not playing well with it. I snagged mine from Target within the past year, and so far it’s standing up to the ever-so-loving snuggles of my son and our kitten. :) I am in the Chicago area and am putting Humbolt House on my list!ReplyCancel

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Here’s the thing. If we weren’t constantly in full blown install-all-the-baseboards mode, I have a feeling that we’d be much, much farther along on our front porch and overall curb appeal (which, right now, is still non-existent. Better, but lacking!). In reality, however, these baseboards are taking forever. Forever!

We started on the living room last weekend, and throughout the course of this week, we’ve been spackling the nail holes, sanding them down and painting our doors. In-between all the trim chatter, we spent an insane amount of time finding the perfect ceiling fan, Googling the merits of deck stain versus deck paint and nailing down a surveyor before we install an exterior fence. All of these are very exciting developments (ha!), but the good news is this: we have baseboards in the living and dining rooms!

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You can still see slight gaps where joints meet, but we haven’t yet caulked or painted anything – although my hope is to knock it out over the weekend and just move on with our lives already! (After which, we’ll need another little break before starting on the studio.) There’s also green tape on the walls marking where we’ll need to touch-up paint, and there are a lot of areas of trim that are still raw or have been sanded down to a smooth finish.

For all the doors, we’ve decided to continue adding tall headers, and now that they’ve been finished in semi-gloss white (we continue to use Behr’s Ultra Pure White), the almost black oil rubbed bronze hinges and knobs provide the right contrast. (We had “upgraded” to the darker hinges when purchasing the doors – an extra $6/door.) As much as we (I?) gripe about the task itself, it never ceases to amaze us how much of a difference all this trim makes! Like a frame for the walls. (If the doors themselves look crooked, we assure you they are not [although my wide lens does add distortion] – but is the ceiling slightly angled? Yup. Old house charm.)

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All of these photos are caulk-less and paint-less, but man. I told Scott that the bright white trim makes me love our paint color even more, and the raw oak is no longer competing with the warmer wood tones in the room.

Looking back towards the living room (my back is to the dining area, below), we also opted for the same thick headers above our large front window. We’ll still be layering in floor-to-ceiling curtains (they’re on the way!), and we went with a 7″ window sill (which is deeper than any of the others we’ve done):

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After tiling the entryway, our wood floors were ever-so-slightly raised in comparison – about an eighth of an inch. To compensate for this, we used an inside corner plinth block to separate the shorter board with the 6″ trim that continues around the entire room. This old beast of a house is crooked in every imaginable, so this was only needed here; the other corner of our arched entry matched up without a hitch, eliminating the need for a plinth. (Go figure!) And finally, we added a seam binder to create a smooth transition from tile to wood. Binders were also placed between the nook and living room, and a new one was installed to the guest room, too. Side note: they came to us as raw wood, but after applying two coats of Cherry Minwax + two coats of satin Polycryclic , they matched our existing floors perfectly!

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In other news (!), one other change is happening in our funny little nook – more like, a tiny step backwards. Not really loving our yellow velvet chair against the dark green walls, we moved it upstairs and pulled out the Flor tiles. Something about the whole combination just felt… off? (Or maybe that’s just what happens when you’re watching Orange Is The New Black and staring into the nook every night. The distractions had to go!) We always knew that the yellow chair and the carpet tiles would be temporary (and to keep it from feeling empty, we moved in the chair below for now), but in a moment of ah, what the hell!, I just pulled everything out.

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We did order this chair, received it, and sent it back. It was too firm, defective (the arms didn’t align properly) and wasn’t as conducive to lazy day reading (this is our dream scenario) as we’d hoped for. I’m now starting to think that the baseboards are making us moody and overly picky! (Is that a thing?) In the end, we decided we’d rather wait until we found The Chair (something neutral) and The Rug (something soothing). Patience, patience.

Now, to tie up the loose ends on Operation Baseboard and then, can we just play outside some more?! We have porch swing plans printed, a deck to stain and plants to plant. Yeah, summer!

  • B - June 20, 2014 - 7:11 AM

    So much progress! For the reading nook, have you checked out Crate & Barrel’s Baxter rug? I just got it in grey for my living room, and paired with the thicker rug pad, this is the coziest rug I’ve ever had. It is so plush and dense that it’s comfortable to sit on/exercise on, but also really durable to stand up to my dog pouncing around on it. Not sure if the available colors are what you’re looking for (it comes only in solids), but for cozy factor, I think it would be hard to beat.ReplyCancel

    • Kim - June 20, 2014 - 9:22 AM

      B, thanks for the suggestion! I pinned it for reference later. We sort of imagined something lighter (although solid in color, like the Baxter), but perhaps we can get a white/cream reading chair and the grey rug? We love first hand feedback, so thank you!ReplyCancel

  • Meredith - June 20, 2014 - 8:46 AM

    It looks amazing. I just can’t believe how much you guys have done in such a short time.

    Out of curiosity, why did you choose not to trim the window in the dining room?

    And has there been any cat-sill-sitting or dog-head-resting in that front window? ‘Cause that’s the best curb appeal you could ask for!

    On a side note, I just wanted to say that I’m always so when you guys post a blog. Brightens my whole day. :)ReplyCancel

    • Meredith - June 20, 2014 - 8:47 AM

      *Happy. So happy. Lol. Friday.ReplyCancel

    • Kim - June 20, 2014 - 9:20 AM

      Oh, yes, there is a LOT of dog head resting (or more like, dog paws on the sill, head popped up and big curious grins!). As for the dining windows, we do want to trim those… just not sure how yet. They don’t need sills, so they may be much more simple and framed out with 4 mitered edges. Now I’m wishing we would have just finished that up!

      And thanks for the super sweet comment. YOU made our whole day.ReplyCancel

  • Carrie @DreamGreenDIY - June 20, 2014 - 8:55 AM

    Looking good!! I meant to tell you, we loooove our Harbor Breeze fan in our living room, but now that I’ve tried to find it again, it looks like it’s out of production…Lamps Plus has some nice options though!ReplyCancel

    • Kim - June 20, 2014 - 9:18 AM

      Not surprised! All the “good” fans we stumbled upon were out of stock, out of production or didn’t fit every item on our checklist. We are being PICKY.ReplyCancel

  • Laura @ Rather Square - June 20, 2014 - 9:14 AM

    I love that you have a crooked house! I think houses are like people – we should embrace their imperfections because that’s what makes them special. ;-)

    What fan did you decide on?ReplyCancel

    • Kim - June 20, 2014 - 9:17 AM

      Agreed! And it’s very, very crooked ;)

      We ordered the fans, but they haven’t arrived yet. We’ll definitely post more about them when they HOPEFULLY work out! Soon, soon!ReplyCancel

  • Yay for progress! Even if it’s not done, it’s a HUGE step in the right direction. In pictures everything looks fantastic. I can’t wait to see what curtains you chose.ReplyCancel

  • Amy - June 20, 2014 - 9:59 AM

    I’m looking forward to seeing the curtains. I am in the midst of purchasing floor-length curtains (108″) and I cannot believe how expensive they are. I have had some success with JC Penney, though, due to their coupons. But I’m thinking about making plain white muslin curtains for some rooms to save money… and the fabric’s so cheap that my lack of sewing prowess shouldn’t matter.ReplyCancel

    • Kim - June 20, 2014 - 10:02 AM

      We love, love, love fresh white curtains, so that sounds like a plan! However, you could “spiff” ‘em up with a unique curtain rod (think about a fun color or bold metal finish).ReplyCancel

  • Katherine - June 20, 2014 - 10:01 AM

    So, I was just looking at the JCPenny’s “Design by Conran” collection (actually, have been looking at it for a while, really nice design) and for whatever reason, everything in that line is on sale now. Seems like a good price for high design and good construction. Check this chair:
    http://www.jcpenney.com/for-the-home/sale/view-all/design-by-conran-elder-chair/prod.jump?ppId=pp5002360203&catId=cat1002350030&deptId=dept20000011&pageSize=96&colorizedImg=DP0207201317030598M.tif
    in grey?
    Seems like it would be kinda up your style alley? Just a thought! Nice work on the baseboards!ReplyCancel

    • Kim - June 20, 2014 - 10:05 AM

      OMG! I love it! THANK YOU.ReplyCancel

  • Shelia @ House of Highlands - June 22, 2014 - 3:12 PM

    Hi Kim!
    I love the baseboards – great job – I know it is a lot of hard work but it is soooo worth it. I also really like your paint color for your walls – it really looks great! I can’t wait to see what you do to improve your curb appeal – you always have such great ideas!
    Shelia
    http://www.houseofhighlands.comReplyCancel

  • Julia@Cukoo4Design - June 23, 2014 - 7:34 AM

    I’m on a Orange Is The New Black binge right now too.
    And yay for baseboards!!!ReplyCancel

  • Lauren Messina - June 23, 2014 - 9:51 AM

    I adore you blog! It makes me happy!!!!! Such great ideas and tips!!!! XO!ReplyCancel

  • Cait - June 25, 2014 - 11:39 AM

    Loving all your progress! The doors, trim, and baseboards look amazing, and I love the paint color you chose!

    We recently added the West Elm Paidge Chair to our library, and I can attest to the fact that it is a fantastically comfy reading chair! We bought the floor model, which came in Performance Velvet Lagoon, but were able to swap the legs out from the Taper Chocolate color to Cone Pecan. The Dove Gray is a really nice neutral (my parents have a Henry sofa in that color), and there are a ton of other neutral options. Maybe you could pair it with something like this rug from Home Decorators?ReplyCancel

    • Kim - June 25, 2014 - 2:15 PM

      Okay, can you just come over and buy all the things and put them together for us? ;)ReplyCancel

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