Time zones are a funny thing. (This is relevant, I swear!) Kim and I both grew up in Ohio near the western end of the Eastern time zone, which extended bright skies decently into the evening all throughout the winter months. Now that we’re in Chicago, which is near the eastern end of the Central time zone, the exact opposite is true; throughout December and January in Chicago, the sun sets around 4:30pm give or take a few minutes. If you’ve not experienced it yourself, looking out the window to darkening skies at 3:30pm and knowing that it’ll be pitch black in an hour can be a bit… demotivating.
Although the second story of our home receives natural light on all four sides, we needed more light! Couple that with a ceiling fan whose bulb had died and that hadn’t been used as an actual fan since we installed central AC last spring (as it turns out, a fan above a desk = paper everwhere). We knew it was time to brighten up our workspace with some recessed lighting and a different central light fixture. As a reminder, this is how our studio looked after its makeover two years ago:
Same dogs, slightly different mood. (Yes, they are truly this lazy.)
Choosing the new central light fixture was an easy decision. We wanted to keep the room symmetrical, so we ordered the same Conifer pendant, same finish, as the opposite end of the studio. Ours is the 24″ shade in oil rubbed bronze, and it casts warm, bright light that is perfectly diffused. The pendants are hunky and substantial. We’re in love all over again!
When it came time to decide on the can lights themselves, we wanted them to be easy for our contractor to install into the existing ceiling drywall to help cut down on mess and drywall repairs – and, subsequently, cost. The lights also needed to be dimmable LEDs, have a lighting temperature of around 2700k, and disappear into the ceiling as much as possible when not in use. We landed on these slim recessed lights and couldn’t be happier! When not in use, they’re virtually invisible.
We had 8 lights installed over the span of a 30′ room, which is the same number we have and enjoy in our living and dining rooms. According to online calculators, we certainly could have added at least two more, but when paired with our central fixtures, we love how many options are available to us for any mood!
While we were at it, we took the opportunity to install smart dimmers on both the recessed lights and pendant, adding further to our home automation setup. Our Wink based system now controls indoor and outdoor lights, window shades, and thermostats all through the Wink app on our phones or through Alexa voice control. We were admittedly skeptical about home automation at first, but now that we’ve been expanding our system for a couple of years, we are huge proponents. There is something oddly satisfying about saying “Alexa, trigger bedtime” and having all of our lights turn off and our shades lower in perfect sequence. Guys, are we in the future?
I’ll begin with a quick reminder that every situation is unique. We had easy attic access directly above the studio space, so the lighting went in smoothly without any demolition. We also have a great, long-standing relationship with our contractor, and we try to pay in cash whenever possible to eliminate fees (for him) which allows him to provide us a lower rate. Labor prices also vary widely based on location.
All of that said, our total cost was around $1500, including the can lights, dimmers, electrical materials, and labor – but not including the cost of the pendant light, since that will vary for everyone based on their tastes.
We’re incredibly happy with the way the recessed lighting and new pendant brighten up the space and every corner of the room, all while keeping us motivated throughout the late afternoon – and into the evening when necessary! The added bonus of wifi control through the new smart dimmers allow us to dial in the perfect amount of light for working or relaxing at the end of the day. Take that, Central time zone!
PS: We continue to receive quite a few questions about the ins and outs of our home automation system and how everything works together. Is this something you’d like to read (or watch?) more about? Let us know and we’ll consider it for upcoming posts and/or videos! As always, we love your feedback. Thank you!
This week has felt a lot like a bit of a catch-up after the absolutely insane weather we’ve been receiving! Most of the time, we were wondering what day of the week it was or how long we’d been wearing the same jammies. Despite a near-city-wide shutdown for a handful of days, we managed to squeeze in a family photo session with our friend Renee, host a small, cozy gathering with our neighbors for the Super Bowl, and finally – finally! – stretch our legs outside with a wet and soggy walk with Lucy + the pups. We hope you’ve stayed safe and warm, but at least there’s some good news: Punxsutawney Phil predicts an early spring! So, there’s that.
One of our favorite parts of sharing our renovation journey with you is the sense of community and the we’re-all-in-this-togetherness that you bring. We always say that we have some of the smartest, most witty and creative readers (it’s true, we heart you!), and your feedback is a large part of what motivates us and keeps us going. The only downside to writing this blog, is that we rarely have the opportunity to see your cute faces, but this weekend, hopefully we will!
If you’re in the Chicagoland area, we’ve teamed up with Value City Furniture to design a tablescape with a ‘Dine In for Valentine’s Day’ theme (light on the blush tones, heavy on the moody black and lush greenery), and we’ll be hanging out at two of their locations to share those ideas and chat with you. Simply put, we would love to meet you! During the events, you’ll have a chance to win all the place settings (valued at $800, sneak peek below!) + a $100 UberEats gift card – oh, and everything in the store will be 10% off! Here’s when and where:
Saturday, 2/9: Value City Furniture, 49 W. North Avenue, Northlake, 3-5pm Sunday, 2/10: Value City Furniture, 1015 E. Golf Road, Schaumburg, 1-3pm
Last weekend, Scott set up a sitter for the evening so that we could celebrate 1 year of breastfeeding Lucy. I followed her lead and recently weaned her, and while I am so proud of myself for making it a whole year (honestly, my initial goal was to just give it a try at all!), I was feeling a little sad to lose that special time with her. We started with cocktails at The Violet Hour and followed that up with the yummiest dinner at Publican Anker. It was the best date night, and we always forget how cute and delicious those places are!
Speaking of food, I’ve got one word for you: Landbirds. I can’t stop, won’t stop raving about how good it is, and I bring it up at least once a day. Chicago friends, have you been? (Get the tiger sauce!)
Happy Friday, and we hope we’re lucky enough to meet you this weekend!
The future dining corner at Tree House is coming! The space that once held a faux brick fireplace surround-slash-wood-stove-combo has since been holding down a rickety plastic folding table and a set of 4 metal chairs – with a lot of, ahem, patina. But now, finally, it’s going to get its time in the spotlight. While we haven’t settled on materials or construction plans just yet, we wanted to bring everyone along on the journey through the design/build process and also probe the creative minds of our readers. You guys and gals always come through for us with incredible ideas and inspiration, for which we’re incredibly grateful.
This tiny corner space presents its own set of challenges, but it’s a bit of a return to our roots. We love a small space, and our former 650 square foot condo taught us a lot about fitting maximum functionality into minimum square footage, so we’ll be relying on some of those lessons here!
Dining Corner | Today
This corner of our Tree House isn’t photographed often because, well, it needs some attention. (Despite this, I can’t even begin to tell you how many meals we’ve eaten at that folding table, squeezed in tightly with adults, toddlers and babies alike. This corner is a workhorse!) The hand-me-down TV atop the alley find cabinet has served us okay as a placeholder (we’ve even watched a Super Bowl and the Oscars on that little guy!), but we certainly need a more permanent and attractive solution that will suit the space better. When we completed the baseboards in the rest of the room, we intentionally held off on this entire corner knowing that we’d be tackling the banquette project in 2019, and here we are!
When we toured our Tree House over a year and a half ago, we envisioned a built-in banquette nestled into the corner. We imagined the corner as the home’s heartbeat, a gathering hub for everything from lazy family breakfasts to warm, cozy holiday feasts. You may remember that we got a jumpstart on the corner by removing the non-functioning fireplace, repairing the floors and patching the drywall, but there were still two things fighting against us: 1) the loft ladder on its electric hoist and 2) the obvious space constraints of the room.
As we began our search for inspiration, we took notes, pinned ideas that we liked and bookmarked Instagram photos. Emily’s sunroom design below has been in Kim’s back pocket for a while now, and it’s the first photo that got us really excited about the possibilities!
Dining Corner | Inspiration 1
Similar to our inspiration image, we toyed with the idea of bolsters and molding for a built-in feel. But when we thought about how we could incorporate those ideas into our Tree House, we found ourselves gravitating towards something even more simple. Oddly enough, the space that we keep coming back to is a restaurant in our own neighborhood! Lonesome Rose, one of our favorite breakfast/taco/cocktail (in no particular order) spots, has a bright, airy vibe that draws you in and almost forces you to relax. We’re not always the best at shutting our work brains off, so forced relaxation is exactly what we’re working toward in our Michigan getaway.
Dining Corner | Inspiration 2
Although Emily’s design was where we started (and it served its purpose in getting us very excited), and Lonesome Rose is sort of where we are now, you can see that the journey from inspiration point A to inspiration point B can be, ultimately, drastically different! The banquette seating at Lonesome Rose is sturdy and comfortable with the just-right seatback angle. The natural wood finish ties into our kitchen and Tree House’s Michigandinavian theme. The cushions are simple and non-fussy, so Kim won’t be fighting the urge to fluff back pillows all day. While this design is almost perfect for our little corner, we have serious need for additional storage at Tree House, so we’ll be incorporating a flip-up seat with room for games, blankets, and extra linens. So, we came up with a wish list, which includes:
Seating for 8
Flip top bench storage
Accent lighting (i.e., a sconce or two)
Back support for additional comfort
A television and sound system on the wall – some way, somehow
… We’ll need to utilize backless stools to tuck out of the way.
… This is the only wall for a television and sound system, but we also don’t want it to be an eyesore.
Challenge accepted?! We started by taping our estimated dimensions onto the walls and floor to ensure that we were on the right path. We’ve used this method for everything from gallery walls to rugs to furniture in the past. Kim and I are both very visual people, so it’s helpful to see how things will actually function in a particular space before pulling the trigger on a significant construction project or piece of furniture!
EDIT: We’ve received a lot of questions about the termination point of the bench seat below the window in the potential plans. The current end point below (under the left window opening mechanism) was chosen to align (roughly) with the long end of the future table. We thought the same thing, and we even originally taped out this end of the banquette to align with the edge of the window trim. We ultimately nixed the idea since this would result in the banquette extending at least 16″ past the edge of the table. We think this would make for an awkward point of entry into the bench seat and might look off-balance once the table is in place most of the time. We hope this helps to explain that thought process a little better, and we love all of your feedback! Thank you and please keep the input coming!
Dining Corner | The Sort-of Plan
Then we placed our folding table back into the corner to get a feel for things. The ladder is almost always in the UP position, but we need to ensure that there was ample clearance when it does need to come down for loft access.
For reference, our little plastic table is 24″ wide, so we’re pretty certain that a table of 30″ – 32″ wide will put us right in the sweet spot of allowing the ladder to safely lower, while also maximizing our surface area. Utilizing backless stools will allow for the widest-possible table depth while also providing versatile seating options that can be moved throughout the room!
Throughout the process, we’ve considered a variety of IKEA hacks, storage benches from all of our favorite furniture stores, and even the same Kraftmaid pull out drawers that we used in our recently renovated kitchen + mudroom, but it’s looking like a full custom plan is the only way we’ll be able to check all of our wish list boxes. We like the idea of raw wood protected in a matte varnish, but similar to our slim behind-the-sofa console, we’re leaning towards a white base.
We’re currently leaning toward a mix of plans that will pull elements from Addicted 2 Decorating, House Updated and Making Manzanita – among others. While none of those designs will fit our needs exactly, we’re confident that a Greatest Hits design that pulls portions from each will be our best option and give us a corner banquette with storage and a back and be attractive and welcoming!
And that? That just about brings us up to speed! Now, what are we missing? Are there other banquette designs or plans that we should be looking into? Have you built a banquette of your own? There’s still time for editing and tweaking, so we welcome all of the input and inspiration we can get!
Let’s go on a thrifting adventure together! In this vlog, we’re taking you along with us while we browse some of our very favorite thrift, resale and salvage shops to find furniture and DIY supplies in Chicago. You guys, this one was hard to film, only because it could have been an additional hour long with at least a dozen more places we wished we had time to visit. While browsing, we showed a considerable amount of restraint – ha! – but we did end up purchasing the most beautiful hand carved vase (2:16) and an adorable bottle opener (12:00). We passed on a pair of caskets (yes, caskets – a pair!) and the most bizarre cabinet we’ve ever seen. Looking back, we’re kicking ourselves that we passed up the prettiest pink rug at Vintage Quest, and we’ve also confirmed our suspicions that Lucy needs her own craft table. (My heart!) Maybe not-so-surprisingly, it turns out that our girl seems to enjoy the thrill of the hunt as much as we do!
Chicago friends or frequenters, where do you like to shop secondhand – for furniture or otherwise? Leave your favorites in the comments so we can all discover a new-to-us resource! Note: If you’re viewing this in a reader, you may need to click over to the original post to view the video, or watch it on YouTube here.
We love pets. Old news, right, because we talk about it all the time? We love our pets, we love our friends’ pets, we love our families’ pets, and we’re pretty sure we’d love your pets if we were so lucky to meet them. Jack, CC, Libby, Maddie (RIP, sweet lady) and all of the furry critters we’ve loved throughout the years will always hold a place in our hearts. We seriously can’t imagine coming home to a house without an excited pup (or two) welcoming us in.
Pets do, however, require a lot of supplies that aren’t always the most attractive. We’ve received numerous reader requests for a roundup of nice looking pet supplies and – we assure you – they do exist! We searched high and low for items your pets need to eat, sleep, and play that will fit right into the style and mood that you’ve worked so hard to cultivate in your space. Simple and clean, or playful and silly, we’ve got your covered!
Of course, please keep in mind that different pets have different needs. Jack and CC, for example, require toys that can withstand their powerful chewing, so these black Goughnuts are the only items they won’t destroy in a matter of minutes! (And we have tried ev-er-y-thing.) As much as we’d love to toss them a hand-crocheted toy that looks like a cartoon taco, we know full well that we’d be wasting resources and creating a massive mess. We’ve categorized things by cat and dog below, and many of these items would support a small business maker! So go forth, and keep it cute.