Beach condo living room redo

Condo in the Rough

When we first arrived, this is what the living room looked like. Not awful. Not great. I didn’t like all the dark brown and wanted to bring in some coastal colors. Like, ASAP. In fact, we began shopping before we arrived to redecorate because we knew our time would be limited. After two months, this is what the same room looked like.

New living room lookNew look, new angleIt all started in Virginia with some lamps, a rug, and a new chandelier. We saw a set of this lamp at HomeGoods one day and thought, “Well, maybe…”

Inspiration lamp

I wasn’t 100 percent sold, so I didn’t buy them. Then I went home and mentally designed the whole room around them. So, of course, when we went back to get them they were gone. I suppose that was a good thing, though, because a few days later we hit a Marshalls in North Carolina, and found these.

IMG_0923A little aqua spray paint later, and they looked like this.

IMG_1354I had ordered one panel of a curtain design I’d found on Amazon and selected the spray paint color at Lowe’s that most closely matched it. I have to credit my brother-in-law Michael for doing the dirty work on these. Sal and his dad took them apart and he sprayed them outside — in the heat of June. I loved our new ones more than the first ones I’d seen, especially because of the glass and chrome base. I think that they look much more sleek and modern.

Here’s that curtain panel I’d ordered.

Seafoam, coral curtainWe draped it over the taupe medallion rug in our bedroom in Virginia and thought it made for a nice sea and sand motif, so we robbed the rug out of our bedroom and hauled it down I95 to its new home in Vero Beach. It was the first change we made.

Rug shot

Then I whined waited patiently until Sal installed the shell chandelier we’d snagged on clearance at our local Lowe’s in Virginia for $40. We didn’t love the pedestal table in the dining area (it had a laminate top and wasn’t large enough for our little family of four) so we set out looking for more of a farm style table. We thought we’d found a great deal through Craigslist, but the guy kept backing out of appointments then finally yelled at me when I called to reschedule.

Table viewLater, we found an antique oak dining table at the Vero Beach Habitat ReStore and kept the lattice back chairs. We are currently having a carpenter in Virginia duplicate the center leaf so it can be widened to seat six. The console table came from Ross and looked like this before we sprayed it silver.

Console before

The pattern on the chairs was a little bold and clashed with our new color scheme, so we recovered them (our kids sleep so soundly after a day playing on the beach that the staple gun in the next room does not wake them!).

Chair recovered in lattice patternWe sold the entertainment center through a local auction house and moved a long wicker dresser (it had been serving as a clothes storage slash big obstacle to walk around in the master bedroom) into its place. It really opened up the space. No more looking around the big entertainment center when you walked through the room. We painted it a pale seafoam to match the curtains.

Entertainment wicker dresserAll shells displayed were found by our family. Sal sprayed the big conch silver (it was a pretty ugly gray beforehand) and the little box with the screen door houses the cable box and DVD player.

Hidden cable boxWe kept the leather sofa and loveseat. At first we thought we’d hate them, but they are actually really comfortable (the sides of the sofa recline) and they were neutral enough to work well with the design scheme.

Sofa picThe coffee table and the office cabinet were both bought cheap (Craigslist and ReStore) and painted to continue the design scheme. I found an antique silver paint application tutorial that used Rustoleum metal paint and a chocolate glaze for the office cabinet. We hid the printer, modem, and the router in it.

Cabinet beforeCabinet afterWe found a small round wood table top at Lowe’s and replaced the old pedestal table top to create a breakfast nook. The top is stained in a driftwood finish and the pedestal was painted aqua to match the lamps. The chairs (from T.J.Maxx) are really comfortable and this spot is one of my favorite places to relax.

Breakfast nookI’m pleased with what we were able to do on a fairly tight budget. All furniture was either bought at a discount store (T.J.Maxx, Marshalls, HomeGoods), through Craigslist, or at Habitat ReStore. Working with the sofa and loveseat was likely the smartest financial decision we made. We splurged on curtain panels (5 at $80 a pop), but saved on everything else, and I really think they add so much in terms of color to the room that they were worth it.

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more beach befores

main roomAfter two days of driving with the girls, we really wanted to crash when we arrived at our Vero Beach, Fl., condo. I snapped a few shots of the rooms as they had been left (we bought it furnished) before we unloaded. The first thing to go was the living room rug. I brought one that had been in our master bedroom in Virginia, hoping it would compliment the beige leather sofa and loveseat.

dining tableWe liked the dining chairs, but thought a rectangular table might fit the spot better. The sidebar, although capable of providing storage, was a bit dark. In fact, it seemed several pieces of furniture and the rug contributed to an overall dark feeling we were hoping to lighten up.

entertainment cabinetWe weren’t big fans of this entertainment cabinet and a few other pieces of furniture and household items crowding the pantry, so we hauled it all off to an auction and used the money we made (not much) towards new items. One reason we liked this condo so much can be seen here in the large tile, which is carried throughout each room. Some that we looked at had much smaller tile and to us, visually, the larger size really makes a difference.

loveseat zonecorner viewThis end of the room seemed so far away from everything else. We auctioned off the coffee and end tables and rearranged the furniture several times before we discovered a layout that emphasized the view and created multiple seating areas. You’ll understand when you see the “after” photos. We did keep that coral lamp, though.

master bedroomguest bedroomBoth bedrooms had queen beds in them. The newer, more comfortable mattress was in the guest room. Nora enjoyed that for a week or two before we figured it out. Our plan was to try and squeeze a king into the master and two twins in the guest room. We donated mattresses and beds to Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore.

What do you think? What would you have kept or tossed? It took us a while to decide what worked and what didn’t. In the midst of that, we spent the first night sweating in our sleep because we weren’t sure how to work the humidistat (it kept turning the air conditioning off because the desired humidity level had been established.)

I should note that the kitchen was just begging for updates. There will be an entire post (or two) dedicated to it.

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business at the beach

It’s been quite the summer. We took a bit of a break from the Chumney House and tackled a new project in Florida. Instead of renting a place in Vero Beach for a month so we could tend to some work business, we bought a condo.

Wait. What?

Yep. We anticipate we’ll be back for long summer stints in future years and buying a place and fixing it up to rent during the peak season (winter) just made sense. After a few painful road trips from Virginia to Florida and back again, we closed on a fully-furnished two-bedroom, two-bathroom oceanfront condo. What we figured would take one month (July) has taken two, but we’re in the final stages of redecorating so I’ll post some of the projects as I find the time to write about them.

For now, here’s a peak at what it looked like before we changed a thing.

The rug kinda makes you dizzy, eh?

The rug kinda makes you dizzy, eh?

On a side note, we began homeschooling Nora Kindergarten while we’ve been in Florida. She’ll turn 5 in February, so we’re taking it slow. This is a trial year to see if it’s a good fit for our family. I’ll let y’all know how it goes.

Stay tuned for “after” pics. Apologies in advance to my Facebook friends who are sick of seeing pictures.

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Ladybugs and wasps: you’re not welcome


Every time the temperature rises, Nora’s room becomes a ladybug oasis. They come in through her windows, dehydrate, and die. Fun, fun, fun. I usually just vacuum them up.

This spring has brought more than just ladybugs, though. There have been countless flies and more than the occasional wasp. Fly paper has helped with the flies but yesterday set a record. I think I “got rid of” nine wasps before she went to bed and there have been more today. The photo above shows what her room looked like today, but sunny days are much, much worse.

A little online search led me to the conclusion that ladybugs and paper wasps are hibernating in our walls, especially around the windows on the warm, southern end of the house. As a result, Nora’s room is the place they end up when they come out for spring.

I wanted to create a seal but didn’t want to damage the windows, so I cut extra large black trash bags and taped them to the walls all around the windows. Hopefully the black will deter them a bit (as I understand it they prefer white). Future plans include spraying the eaves for wasps in April and maybe setting up a ladybug house or something to deter the ladybugs from coming back.

I’ll follow up to let y’all know how our “trashy curtains” work out. Aren’t they fancy?


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Announcing… the mermaid towel dress

Our neighbor Delores and I came up with the concept of this mermaid towel dress last summer and we’re now selling in on Etsy. mermaid (10 of 15)mermaid (5 of 15) mermaid (6 of 15) mermaid (7 of 15)  mermaid (13 of 15)This terry cover up dress has front snaps, so there’s no need to pull anything over the head. Our test model loves swishing her tail and has even taken to hoarding seashells in it. The mermaid towel dress also serves as a great out-of-season dress-up mermaid costume. Front: Hot pink trimmed in blue and scalloped at the knees for easy movement Back: Blue with pink trim Hair color: Can be customized (request Blonde, Brunette, Black, or Red in your order comments or send us a message and we’ll even do purple or green hair if that’s what you’d prefer, although we may need extra time to track down material if we don’t have it in stock. Hair pieces extend from hood, drape down the front, and are great for patting a face (or runny nose) dry.

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Almost learning Spanish

Sal and Dora the Explorer have been working with Nora on her Spanish, and she can count to six and say a few random words. The problem, though, is that she thinks she is fluent and loves to spit out gibberish as if it’s actual words. Something tells me that eventually she’ll learn the words to La Cucaracha. Until then, this is what we may keep hearing from the backseat. Over and over.

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When Josie comes home

Did I tell you about how we spent the second night after we brought baby Josie home from the hospital? Yes, it was over a year and a half ago, but I’ve been a mother of two since then so cut me some slack. You may think I’m going to write all about how our precious one kept us up crying all night, but you’re wrong. No, that sweet little sleeping dream of a baby had very little to do with why I couldn’t sleep. In fact, I kind of wish it had been her fault.

It was late July and we’d been hearing what we assumed were birds or a mouse in one of our chimneys for a while but hadn’t been too concerned. You need to understand that these chimneys are old. Super old. Built in 1823 old. Critters are going to find ways into them because there are gaps between stones and bricks that we can’t see. We don’t use them because we were told they aren’t safe. Instead, we’ve shoved a thin piece of foam board insulation in front of each one and are attempting to ignore them until we are ready to remove the current brick hearths and make them pretty.

I was a little doped up post C-section delivery, but alert enough to wake every three or four hours when my alarm sounded to go wake Josie and breastfeed her in her room. I went to sleep around 10 p.m. and woke to feed Josie at 1:30 a.m. and was back to the room around 2, at which point I turned on the lovely video monitor we set up and began to doze off. I would have been good and asleep soon, too, if not for the scratching sound I heard in the general direction of the chimney wall. I grabbed my glasses (I’m pretty much blind without them) and checked the baby monitor. Fresh mommy hormones make us continually check them to make sure our babies are ok even when a noise comes from within the room. Next, I turned on my lamp and nudged Sal awake, telling him I thought maybe we had a mouse in the wall.

He woke confused and a little angry to be bothered. He listened, heard the scratching, got out of the bed and knocked on the wall a bit, and got back in bed. The scratching stopped. I turned off my lamp. The baby monitor glowed in the dark room. Then something dark flew by my face. I pulled the covers over my head and began crying. Sal was a little more even-keeled. He identified it as a bat.

Yikes. I was motionless while Sal prepared his attack. He came up with a cardboard packing tube. I didn’t want to be around for what was going to happen next, so I grabbed the baby monitor and headed downstairs to sleep on the couch. I’d have to be up in a bit to feed Josie anyway and I just couldn’t emotionally deal with a bat in the room.

I landed on the den couch and listened to a bunch of banging and thrashing around above. It went on for about ten minutes. Then came the sound of duct tape being pulled off the roll, which, of course, woke Josie. I went to calm her and realized she needed a diaper change, so I tended to that while Sal continued his duct tape routine. At least Nora (two years old at the time) slept through the whole thing. Meanwhile, Josie did something that newborns sometimes do: While I was reaching for a second wipe she squirted out a projectile poop that splattered all over the wall. GROSS. Not exactly what I wanted to deal with right then.

I had to clean all the poop with disinfecting wipes, feed her, and put her back down. Sal came in while she was nursing and informed me that he had chased the bat back into the chimney and taped the foam board all the way around so there was no way he was coming back into the room. I could set my alarm for three hours later and hopefully get some sleep.

Ha. It was not ten minutes after I settled back into bed when the same bat (or his cousin who had been waiting patiently during the first episode of this story because Sal swears he thought he’d gotten rid of him) began swooping in circles around the room, diving at the monitor every couple of rounds. I turned it off and covered my head with the blanket while Sal got back to swinging the shipping tube.

A few minutes later he had the bat pinned to the floor and ended up killing it with a little pressure. I was so exhausted I didn’t really care that he killed it, although it retrospect I suppose I would have preferred it not have happened. He was just a little thing and I’m sure he was scared to be where he was. Maternal instinct justified the whole matter at that moment, though.

After Sal chucked it outside and returned to bed, I thanked him, in tears, and tried to get some sleep. It seemed that the alarm to nurse Josie went off just as I hit the part of sleep that actually allows you to be a coherent person during the day. It took every bit of motivation I could muster to get up and not just turn the alarm off and see how long she would sleep. For the record, in my experience this willingness to wake up a sleeping child, per doctor’s orders, fades about two weeks after birth, but that’s a whole ’nother story. I am pretty glad, though, that I didn’t choose to have her sleep in our room for those first weeks.

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Prepare for Takeoff

No one looks forward to flying with young children. If we could have sent Nora, three, and Josie, one, by FedEx and just met them in England we would have. Instead, we braced ourselves and dealt with the fact that if we wanted to take them along for a month-long work trip – let’s face it, there was no way we’d have even taken the trip if we had to arrange childcare and be away for that long – we’d have to be trapped on a plane with them for eight hours. We’d also have to endure the stares of strangers, which ranged from pity, to disgust, and even fear.

Check-in and security was ok. Nora asked for water maybe 5,000 times while we inched our way through the security line, but that’s typical. If you have a three-year-old all you need to do is get in a really long line and your child will need the one thing you don’t have at that particular moment. At least she didn’t need to use the bathroom.

Luckily, Josie just sat silent in her stroller-car seat combo. Seriously, she’s the most chill child ever. By the time we’d finished the metal detector bit, Nora was done. Blame it on the fact that it was now 6:30 p.m and she hadn’t napped at all that day (hey, I figured it’d make sleeping on the plane that much easier), but she was ready to strap into her own car seat — we’d hoped they’d let us take it on the plane — and have Sal roll her to the gate.

I don’t know if it was the 45 minutes of dehydration we forced upon her, the vibrations of the luggage rack dragging the car seat along the floor, or the 45 degree angle she was tilted on, but just as we rolled up to our gate,  Nora began to emit an animal-like moan. It sounded like something was dying. Great first impression for the people who are beginning to realize the moaning girl is going to be on THE SAME PLANE AS THEM.

We stopped and gently coaxed her to use words to tell us what was wrong and she mumbled out that her head hurt. She also muttered something about thinking she might throw up. I ran her to the closest bathroom, thank goodness it was just across from the gate. Instead of throwing up, though, she made a huge number two, and she acted like she felt better. Great, right? Crisis averted. The plan was to get some water in that girl, feed her something, and get her to sleep on the plane.

It seemed like as soon as we got settled in the waiting area and she had had a little to drink she was complaining she might need to throw up again. So, again, I rushed her to the bathroom, except this time I was disoriented and by the time she finished another number two in what I assumed was the same stall, I was surprised to find myself in the men’s room. A man wandered in as we left and looked at me like I was losing it. Which, at that moment, I was.

Once again we settled into seats in the waiting area. I was actually pleased with the fact that Nora, who typically eats more than me at any given time, wanted to strap into her car seat and go to sleep instead of eating. When a child wants to go to sleep sitting upright, you let them. She was tired. There was peace for about 15 minutes. I ate, changed Josie’s diaper, and let myself relax for a few minutes.

Of course, when our flight began to board we were stuck with a child sleeping in a car seat that may or may not get approved for the aircraft. It wasn’t. So, we were forced to wake Nora up to gate check her seat, and since we were carrying so much stuff she was going to have to walk. We tried to get her excited about getting on the plane (she’d flown with me months earlier so she knew what it would be like), but such a short nap on top of not feeling well meant she was back to making the moaning dead animal noise as we bypassed all the people who enjoy lining up before their boarding zone is called. I could feel them dreading being seated anywhere near us.

Nora settled down a little as we got on the plane and delighted in having her own seat. She was too excited to just go back to sleep. I was peeved that she couldn’t be in her car seat but apparently it was too big for this plane. Oh, well. Everyone staggered on, shoved their stuff into the overhead compartments, and either ignored us or gave us a look of pity. Yikes.

We were in the middle front row of a coach section, with Sal and I on each aisle and Nora in the middle. Josie was content to be in my lap. She sucked her pacifier and did a little dance as we took off. Nora, who was already pale, somehow became even whiter. She’d said she didn’t want more water, so Sal encouraged her to move her jaw to help with pressure changes.

I guess the look of worry on our faces caught the attention of the closest flight attendant because the second the seat belt light turned off she was up and checking in on us. I explained that Nora’s head had been hurting her but she didn’t want water and that she’d probably be asleep and feeling better soon. That didn’t satisfy her. She insisted Nora needed to drink to relieve pressure. She bent down in front of Nora and basically forced her to drink some water.

Two sips later and out came an explosion of throw up, basically right down on her lap but I’d be surprised if some didn’t get on the attendant. Nora felt 100 percent better. Clothes were changed. The blanket she spewed on was replaced. Not too many people even noticed. None of us had stomach trouble over the next week so I’m pretty sure it was motion related. I know I should feel sorry for the flight attendant who bore the brunt of the blow, but c’mon, she kind of deserved it for forcing my child to drink when she didn’t want to, don’t you think? You showed her, Nora.

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My three-year-old is sad and I blame Fuhu

Normally I post when we have house restoration and remodel news. Things have been slow on that front, but that’s because we’ve been busy building a family business and enjoying our daughters. Josie turned one July 19th and when I look back at the past year I truly feel like it flew by. We’ve been blessed with healthy, smart girls and Nora (three) has transitioned well into big-sisterhood. She doesn’t mind sharing with Josie, but enjoys having her own “bid kid toys,” too.

We recently purchased her something special to keep her entertained (and learning) when we’re extra busy: a tablet geared towards toddlers. I was careful to make sure each app she used was education in some way and was happy to see her engaged and learning during long car rides, or when I needed to put Josie down for a nap or take a quick shower.  The following is my sob story about the device in which we invested our money (I’ve posted this on many retailer and tech site review pages, so my apologies for the tone):

We bought a nabi Jr (made by Fuhu) from WalMart in May 2013 and our three-year-old absolutely loved it. We couldn’t have been happier. We’d read many good reviews about the fact that it was made to withstand drops, and Nora was actually really careful with it. Then the inevitable happened: she dropped it. Her screen cracked on a diagonal and only one side of it works.

I contacted nabi Cares, but it turns out they don’t. I’ve been told there’s nothing they can do. There is no screen replacement program for this product. There goes $100.

It was fun while it lasted, but we won’t be buying nabi products in the future. The “Drop-Safe Bumper” was a big disappointment. We cannot justify spending more money with a company that promises “The nabi Jr. will handle those little bumps and drops without complaint and with its chunky construction and drop safe bumper, it will make it home undamaged after show and tell.”

I thought my daughter would learn great lessons with this device, such as number recognition, phonics, and spelling. Instead, she’s learned that sometimes a company cannot stand behind the product it makes.

P.S. Blog readers: Nora’s not throwing fits or anything. She just talks about how she broke her computer and that we can’t get a new one right away. She misses it. If you know of one that is actually good for toddlers and made by a company that can be relied on to deliver what it promises, we might be interested in the future.

Drop-Safe Bumper? Not really. Maybe if she had dropped it somewhere safe, like on a pillow, instead of the floor.

Drop-Safe Bumper? Not really. Maybe if she had dropped it somewhere safe, like on a pillow, instead of the floor.

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Bathroom makeover. It might happen.

After a whole lot of house remodel standstill, it looks like our upstairs bathroom remodel could actually be moving forward. We met last night with a contractor who says he’ll get us a quote soon after he does his research and prices a few things out. So… I’m motivated to start picking things out again. If you haven’t noticed, whenever I stop posting it usually means that blogging is depressing me because I’m posting about ideas and not sure when they’ll actually be executed. Here’s hoping things keep progressing.

existing sink, cabinets

existing sink, cabinets

this needs to become a shower/bath for children

this needs to become a shower/bath for children

Remember this upstairs bathroom? Unless we win the lottery it’ll be the only full bath in the house for a few years. I still dream of our master suite, but we’re prioritizing our most pressing needs first, and a place to bathe the girls upstairs (right by their bedrooms and clothes – as opposed to downstairs near the kitchen) is looking so attractive that I’m happy to share a bathroom with them for a while.

We have extensive, and somewhat complicated to explain, plans for this bathroom, so I’ll ease you into it with the essentials:

1) Replace stall shower with a bathtub and shower combo. Space is limited because that linen closet to the left is hiding some big ductwork. Our contractor thinks he’s found a cast-iron tub that will fit in the space we have to work with. Imagine slicing the linen closet in half and replacing the shower with a tub that’s pretty much the same depth as the shower but longer. Tile from the tub to the ceiling.

2) Replace the toilet with a newer one.

3) Replace the sink stand with a old painted wash stand (auction buy, $25) and a round, clear glass sink bowl (auction buy, $1!).

4) Knock out the tile and replace with a beadboard wainscoat.

5) Add a framed mirror along the top of the wainscoat that extends across the entire wall.

6) Install a shelf above the mirror to create accessible storage for things in baskets. Get rid of the too-high cabinets that have been no help at all.

7) Install vanity lights under shelf mentioned in 6, a chandelier in the middle of the ceiling, and a light and vent combo in the shower.

8) Refinish the wood floor and add a decorative bathmat.

I’m drawn to using gray and yellow for this bathroom. Because it will be the family bathroom and not just the girls’ for a good while, I don’t want to decorate it too juvenile or cutesy. I’d like the walls a light gray, the wainscoat white, and the washstand a calm yellow. We’ll likely use a natural wood Roman blind, so the place to play with color will be in the shower curtain fabric. I really like this one from Anthropologie, so I used Pinterest to pin it onto a board I’m making of bathroom elements that inspire me.

Anthropologie Chaffinch Shower Curtain

Anthropologie Chaffinch Shower Curtain

I’m looking at bird motif fabrics and hoping to create something similar, then base the paint colors on the fabric palette. I’ve posted a few I like from below. One has aqua flowers. Although I hadn’t planned on aqua as a color, I’m so attracted to it we may just have to add a little blue, like maybe the blue chandelier from Pottery Barn Teen at the bottom of this post. What do you think? What do you like?
Olive Birds and Cages
birds on a branch
Bluetits and Blossoms Teal and Mustard




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