Happy New Year!  2014 is going to be a good one, I just know it!  In the spirit of renewal, I’ve felt the need for a little style sprucing on the homefront.  That itch for Spring Cleaning has started early for me, I guess.  This month, my focus has been on decor & design and I have lots of little projects going on around the house.  We’ve been in the new space since June, so we’ve had about 7 months now to let furniture settle into the floorplan.  The time since move-in has also allowed the home decor budget to build back up after down payment, closing costs, etc.  Going from a 1 bedroom apartment to a 2 bed/3.5 bath townhouse obviously involves some significant purchasing of furnishings, too.  We’ve got the major wall art, area rugs, & accent chairs all set, but now has proved the perfect time for a little design & refinement…

1. Ecru Moderne:  So, Ryan and I attended a charity event in the fall –the LEAP LifeWorks annual CASINO event– and besides having a great time gambling for a good cause at the W hotel, we had the surprise & delight to hear we’d actually won one of the event’s auction items:  3 hours of in-home design consultation with Clarissa of local interior design company Ecru Moderne.  So far, Clarissa & I have had about and hour & a half together at my home and she is full of ideas & inspiration!  I’d never worked with an interior designer in any of our previous dwellings, so I really didn’t know what to expect.  She brought so much to the table and it really showed me that utilizing an interior designer is SO worth it when it comes to dividing up a home furnishings budget.  I was awed by her innate sense of color compatibility, knowledge of what-to-buy-where, and spot-on picks for changes that would enhance our home’s features.  If you need an interior designer in Austin, I highly recommend her!  She’s great, and I’m planning to continue to utilize her keen eye for design as we evolve in this space & in future residences over the years.  Follow Clarissa of Ecru Moderne on Pinterest here.

2. Coat of Arms:  The main area I asked for her help with was our master bedroom.  The place in which we actually spend the most time was kind-of frustrating me…  I initially went for an almost art deco theme with a few mirror-finished pieces (vanity, tray, etc.) on an all white & silver backdrop.  What I had envisioned being a clean, snow-white, sort-of pure atmosphere quickly began to instead feel cold and uninviting.  After reevaluation, I had the thought of going for a more beachy storyline…not nautical, but something that captured the serenity & calm I feel at the sound of surf.  I suppose I’m drawn to the idea of a sea-inspired scene for a few reasons:

a.) I grew up on the Gulf coast and being by the water has always been an influential setting in my life.

b.) When I saw the Mediterranean Sea for the first time, I was instantly enamored with its special shade of blue…so divine.

c.) Our honeymoon in the Caribbean was one of the most relaxing escapes in my life (I’m not really someone who knows how to relax, so anything I can do to recreate that vibe is crucial!)

Anyway, to get me started down this oceanic road I was feeling, Clarissa instantly picked out the most delicious shade of blue from her swatches:  Coat of Arms by Benjamin Moore.  We are no strangers to a bold accent wall but I know we would’ve never picked out this color on our own.  I was a bit nervous about the drastic move of taking our pale beige wall to such a rich, deep shade of blue, but we both couldn’t be happier with the way it’s turned out.Image

3. Rust-Oleum Furniture Transformations:  Another problem we had was blending our dark espresso wood bedroom set with our dark espresso wood floors….it was just too dark-on-dark when all of it came together.  Trying to avoid buying new furniture, Clarissa suggested simply refinishing a few of our pieces.  So, I went to Home Depot and stumbled upon Rust-Oleum’s Furniture Transformations kit.  At $34.97, it’s definitely worth a try & beats buying new furniture altogether.  It includes everything you need for such a project:  deglosser, bond coat, decorative glaze and a protective top coat.  You just supply the paint brush & elbow grease.  Having never refinished furniture in my life, I was weary of the end result so I tested it out on our side tables first.  I chose the “Winter Fog” finish which is much MUCH lighter than the original dark espresso brown.  The color –a light grey w/ brown glaze– turned out great so I tackled our large 6-drawer dresser as well.  I was going for the appearance of driftwood…not sure if the end result stretches that far, but I’m proud of my handiwork nonetheless.  For reference, the dark border of the mirror is the original finish of the dresser…dresser refinished with Rust-Oleum Furniture Transformations kit

4. Finishing touches:  Confession:  I’m quite color averse…especially when it comes to major purchases.  I mean, I do love color in my personal wardrobe and always interested in following color trends, such as Pantone’s color of the year.  But, trends move faster than ever these days and the Tangerine Tango I couldn’t get enough of two years ago, is so. over. to me now, ya know?  I just like the safe space of neutrals…in fact, one of my favorite colors is taupe. –Is that weird?  Following suit, most of our decor is neutral:  lots of woodtones, natural fabrics, and shades of grey.  Of course, as I’m sure any designer would be so inclined, Clarissa suggested popping a bright color against that aforementioned Mediterranean blue accent wall.  Her picks? –Mustard yellow & magenta.  Again, never would’ve gravitated to these on my own but either one would compliment the rest of the room wonderfully.  Our master bedroom is quite large, calling for a rug at least 8 x 10 in size.  It wasn’t hard to land on one from West Elm, a favorite furniture store of mine.  Mustard yellow & made of jute, it’ll be handcrafted just for us so it won’t ship until May 25th (which actually happens to be the date of our 6th anniversary!)  It had to be special-ordered –a.k.a. non-refundable!– so I am keeping my fingers crossed that it’ll work.  Oh, and I’m looking to pair it with a velvet mustard yellow throw pillow such as this one from Anthropologie or this one from Urban OutfittersMustard yellow jute rug from West Elm

5. The Great Outdoors:  Another thing I have to thank Clarissa for is recommending this gem of nursery to me when I asked about where to buy good houseplants.  I’m currently obsessed with picking the right flora for our home…I even caught myself Googling “trendy houseplants” the other day.  I’m usually lazy about it and just swing through the outdoor section of Home Depot to see what’s on sale.  Never again.  The Great Outdoors is now my go-to nursery for life.  It’s right in the neighborhood on South Congress, spans a whole 2 acres, and had the friendliest, knowledgeable, most helpful staff around.  They have so many plants, flowers, pots & planters to choose from…I could’ve been there all afternoon!  It’s quite the zen-like setting, too…they play soft spa-like music and there’s little pathways & vignettes to wind through as you peruse plants.  I had such a pleasant shopping experience and brought home a unique varietal of lavender and this cool cascading “Curly Lipstick” plant for the living room bookshelf: curly lipstick houseplant from The Great Outdoors