A Winning Dining Room Makeover

Remember that contest I ran way back in October for a FREE room makeover? I’m thrilled to finally show you the results! The winner, Jen, was an old college friend I hadn’t talked to in years, and when the algorithm I used randomly picked her, I was pumped that it gave us the chance to reconnect. She’d already determined that she needed the most help with her dining room (see below), which is located in the front of her Washington, D.C home built in 1955. Total budget: ~$2-3K.

  PROPOSED DINING ROOM

PROPOSED DINING ROOM

  CURRENT DINING ROOM

CURRENT DINING ROOM

Here were some of Jen’s main issues with the space:

1) Storage: The home has no real entryway, which means this room had become a haphazard dumping zone for scooters (she and her husband have two young daughters), shoes, mail etc. Jen and her family were desperate for a place to organize mail, coats, shoes, and the like.

2) Walls: Jen loved the idea of some color on the walls or even some wallpaper, but she felt overwhelmed with options and didn’t know where to start.

2) Chairs: While the current dining table is a beautiful family heirloom that the family loves, the dining chairs were so worn they were falling apart. Replacing them was a top priority.

3) Rug:
The rug is another old item they hadn’t gotten around to replacing. It’s worn and the pattern is dated. In its place we needed something that incorporated color and could withstand busy life with kids/spills.

4) Art: All of the photos in this room were taken during family trips, so they’re certainly meaningful and worth keeping. But as Jen said, “the frames are pretty abysmal.” What I immediately noticed is how the frames didn’t match and were scattered throughout the room without any real intention or common aesthetic.

5) Bar: Their old wire bar cart barely kept liquor bottles in the air. And for a couple who loves cocktails, it was most definitely time for an adult home bar they can show off to their friends.

Here were two other main issues I had:

6) Light fixture: Bad light fixtures stick out like sore style thumbs. The great news is that you can find really beautiful, inexpensive fixtures via so many sources these days. I couldn’t wait to offer a new option.

7) Curtain rods: It’s amazing how impactful it can be to swap out old, bulky curtain rods with chic, modern ones. It’s like changing something up in your beauty routine that elicits compliments, even thought people can’t quite put their finger on why you look so fresh. Little change, big impact.

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VERSION 1
In my first version of the room, I went for an overall look that incorporated their favorite colors with a fresh, modern feel. I found a cool wallpaper with a midcentury modern pattern, as well as ivory and brass chairs that countered the dark paper and didn’t cost a fortune. But when Jen took a look at the design, she felt overwhelmed by the wallpaper (“I wish we were more adventurous, but it’s just a bit too bold for us.”). This is a totally valid opinion. She also felt like the chairs and light fixture might be a bit too modern for their style. And this is often the case when it comes to design. We can’t define or explain what we like until we see some options. So it was back to the drawing board for me.

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VERSION 2 (a and b)
I settled on two new options: 1) another blue pattern by Chasing Paper x West Elm featuring a smaller, more subtle pattern (although it’s impossible to mock-up without creating those grid-link shadows…so just try to look past them) 2) an ivory and dusty champagne/pink patterned paper that was even more subtle. The light fixture I found is much more traditional in shape but with thin, minimalist lines, and it worked with either wallpaper. As did the rug, which has since sold out but here’s a similar one. Jen found these faux ivory leather dining chairs that are more traditionally shaped, while I offered up some blue upholstered chairs that work best with the ivory wallpaper.

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In the bar corner of the room, I brought in a cabinet that offers plenty of storage and much more top surface space for grouping the most frequently used bottles on a tray (everything else can get stored underneath). Above the bar I created a gallery wall as an intentional place to group family photos in similar frames. This move creates a more cohesive display than what they previously had going on. And finally a modern coat rack tucked into this corner offers a designated place to hang coats, hats, and bags.

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In the other corner of the room, I designed a nook that will optimize storage. I love this clever hanging basket situation because you can totally customize it to your needs. And I love the simple lines and neutral color of this storage bench, as well as its drawers and bottom shoe rack. To make sure every base was covered, I added a lidded storage basket that keeps up neat appearances and just looks cool.

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So what was the final verdict?! In the end, Jen decided on the second blue wallpaper (version 2a) because it brings color into the room without being too dramatic. There’s no pressure for her to buy everything I recommend, and it’s totally up to her when she wants to start filling her virtual shopping cart. But I always recommend clients not wait too long, as products can go out of stock rather quickly.

Do you have a room you’re been meaning to spruce for a while now? Schedule a free consultation so we can chat about your hopes and dreams and how I can make them come true!

Win a Room Design Worth $500!

Have you signed up for my Fall giveaway yet?! Head to my Facebook page to enter (it’ll take 10 seconds, promise). A winner will be selected randomly and announced on Facebook Live on Oct 8th!!

 Final Design of Mudroom

Final Design of Mudroom

 Final Design of Mudroom

Final Design of Mudroom

 Before Photo of Mudroom

Before Photo of Mudroom

 Before Photo of Mudroom

Before Photo of Mudroom

It’s amazing how long we’ll live with a space we don’t like. Months, years, even decades, like this mudroom above. But deep down, we know it deserves better—and so do we.

I’m kicking off the fall season with this thought in mind. My hope is to give people the inspiration to finally makeover their master bedroom. Or fix up a home office that actually makes them a more focused, happier worker. What space has been nagging at you for far too long? No matter the size of your budget, we can transform it together.

And so I’m giving away one of my room designs for free—a prize worth $500! You’ll share photos of measurements of the space so I can get to know it as best I can from afar, and then I’ll ask you to take a style quiz so I get to know your personal style, budget, and overall needs. It’ll be a totally collaborative process that you’ll also find fun—and free. Did I mention that?

Head to the Spruce Creative Studio Facebook page to sign up. A winner will be selected randomly and announced Oct 8th!!


Where to Shop for New Home Decor in Raleigh-Durham

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If mid-size American cities were running for prom queen, Raleigh-Durham would totally be nominated. People love this area, and it's easy to see why. Affordable living, fantastic schools, great restaurants and short drives to both the beach and mountains. In fact, the Raleigh metro area is the 14th fastest growing in the country. Know what that means? Lots of houses and lots of house needs. When we bought our house in 2016,  I was 6 months pregnant and we had an entire house to furnish in 4 months. I bought locally whenever I could, combining well-made vintage furniture within our budget (via Craig's List and thrift stores) alongside pieces from Crate & Barrel/CB2 (where I was a part-time, remote employee with a discount). But when it came to new accessories and gifts, I sought out local home decor shops. Here are a few of my favorites:

PORT OF RALEIGH: Founder Ana Maria Munoz has the kind of worldly taste you just don't find much between the coasts. Step into her store (pictured above) and you feel instantly transported to Scandinavia or Australia. Her style is truly modern, and her shop is filled with streamlined, functional items. Very practical, very pretty and without the fuss typically found in the South. I walk in with a wish list for other people and leave with gifts for myself.

HOLDER GOODS & CRAFTS: Concrete floors, white shiplap walls, quirky home goods and local art. Holder Goods feels very big-city cool without bragging about it. I never know what I'll find inside (a recent trip revealed Turkish pillows and Peppertrain jewelry), and I always make time to pop into Boulted Bread next door.

CHET MILLER: This charming shop is the brainchild of Durham retail queen Jennings Brody (see below). A happy hodgepodge of vintage-inspired, kitschy wares alongside small-batch tonics and snappy cards, Chet Miller checks off many boxes on my Christmas shopping list. Ideal for the entertainer, camper, and collector in us all, Chet Miller is the type of jam-packed shop you could poke through for hours on end. PS: Brody's other shops—(1) Parker & Otis for food, cards, gifts and (2) Tiny for all things kid-related—are most definitely worth a stop, too.

 Photo by Lissa Gotwals for Walter Magazine

Photo by Lissa Gotwals for Walter Magazine

ZEN SUCCULENT: I get my indoor plant fix at this blooming downtown Durham shop (they recently opened a Raleigh location, too). It's filled with beautiful vases, darling succulents, and just the best gifts. A recent collaboration with local artist Jordan Grace Owens of hand-painted ceramic planters were to-die-for gorgeous. If you visit the Durham spot, pop into Everyday Magic next door for crystals, tarot cards, and gifts for all of your millennial friends.

 Photo by Zen Succulent

Photo by Zen Succulent

VINTAGE HOME SOUTH: If the French farmhouse look is your style, this is your spot (see below). Owned by a local couple with a love for reclaimed wood and linen-tufted furniture, this petite shop offers a rotating mix of small and large items with a pretty point of view.

 Photo by Vintage Home South

Photo by Vintage Home South

A Little Laundry Room Makeover

AFTER

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BEFORE

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If we're being honest, making over a laundry room is a total extravagance. For the first 10 years of my post-college life, I had no washer/dryer to call my own. Like most young urbanites, I schlepped overstuffed bags of clothes to and from laundromats and dingy apartment basements as part of my weekly exercise routine.  

It's true that laundry rooms are spaces often unseen by the world. But I don't care who you are: a nice and neat laundry room can truly make the whole experience feel a little less chore-like. 

Our laundry "room"—and by room, I mean large closet—sits right off of our dining room in the hallway leading to the master bedroom. When my husband Andrew and I first moved into the house, a pathetic little curtain hung above the space concealing an old washer and dryer and a sagging upper shelf that could barely support a detergent bottle. But given our laundry list (ha) of house projects, fixing up this space fell to the bottom.

About a year ago—as an attempt to muffle the terribly loud washing machine sounds and replace aforementioned sad curtain—my husband installed two sets of folding doors with matching trim. I meant to take pictures of that process, but that was in my B.B. days (before blog). It helped, but not enough. When big appliance Memorial Day sales rolled around, we finally splurged for a new stacking washer and dryer. They looks so neat and clean that the rest of the room needed to match. So here's what we did, step by step—all for under $400.

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1. WALLS: This was our starting point. To give the plain space some pizzazz, we applied gold speckled removable wallpaper from Target. The pattern was light and cheery, plus it was affordable ($30 a roll and we used 4). Now, this was not our first rodeo in removable wallpaper land. We had our first go of it in our Chicago apartment, which led to a big blowout fight about whose method was best. We only *mildly* argued this time. Removable wallpaper can be intimidating, but if once you get the hang of it, the process should go relatively smoothly. A few things to note:

*A plastic putty knife and a box cutter are super helpful when you get to the trim.
*Picking a pattern that doesn't need to match up exactly is super helpful. Otherwise, you'll want to make sure the first panel is level at the top and then match the next panel up to it. Most walls aren't perfectly even, which can make it extra frustrating. Just pick one panel to be straight and expect everything else to follow. No one will be analyzing it as much as you.
*This paper functions like a strong sticker. You can remove it and smooth it back in place multiple times in a row. So don't worry if you keep messing up.
*Some people recommend going slow, but I found that big sweeping motions in a relatively fast motion worked for me (as seen below).

2. CABINET: Our kitchen cabinets—which are visible from the closet—are from Ikea, so we thought it'd be best to be consistent. Ikea's 3-D planner is super helpful because it allows you to upload dimensions of your space and creates a rendering to follow when purchasing your design. We went with the SEKTION model with two drawers: the top to hold laundry products and the bottom for dog food storage. We also bought a toe kick and a side panel to fill up extra space on the sides and base, and screwed in the same matte black drawer pulls we used in the kitchen to create a cohesive look. Didn't take photos of this process because we've all seen how ugly it is to put together Ikea furniture 😂 Total cost: $240

3. RECLAIMED COUNTERTOP + SHELVES: This is my favorite element of the space. We found a $40 piece of cedar at the salvage yard that was taken from an abandoned house in our town. We had it cut down to fit our measurements for $2 a cut. Once home, we tested out a few different stains on the wood before picking a color that worked best with a custom bar in our kitchen. Using wood glue, we glued two of the boards together for our countertop, and held them in place with clamps while they dried. The stain actually set deeper than we intended, so after the glue dried, we sanded the boards down a bit before sealing them with polyurethane. We installed the countertop to the cabinet with screws from underneath. I love how the wood grain and imperfections show through the stain and add tons of character.

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Once the countertop was in place, I spray painted $4 bronze brackets from Home Depot with gold paint so that they'd more or less disappear against the wall. And then to install the shelves, we used a stud finder, a level and a drill. Once you figure out where your studs are, it's just a matter of evenly spacing the brackets as best as possible and then making sure the shelf is level.

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5. LIGHT FIXTURE: Previously a sad little bulb hung from the ceiling just waiting to be pulled out. And now a $15 little fixture from Amazon fills in the space just fine. It's simple and no-fuss and that's all we need. I added a gold chain and nicer white pull to my Amazon cart for a little extra polish.

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6. DRYING RACK: When I found this bad boy on Amazon, I was sold. I love that it just tucks away in a corner that would otherwise be empty and then pulls out from the wall when it's needed. Because even small spaces deserve drying racks, amiright?!

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7. DOG FOOD STORAGE: We've never been happy with our dog food storage situation and so this project gave us an excuse to rethink our options. The bottom drawer of the cabinet ended up being the perfect size for  a single plastic bin of food. Our dog's food and water bowls sit just below.

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8. FINISHING TOUCHES: I picked up two baskets from Target—a small white rope one and a larger leather storage bin—to store paper towels and toilet paper. I tucked my sewing kit inside a vintage basket and poured baking soda and vinegar (we use them to cut odors) in glass jars. A candle, faux plant, and framed print by artist Laura Berger finish off the countertop with a bit of personality.

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Designing A Warm Family Home in Colorado

When my old-coworker Jasmine first reached out to me for design help, I'll admit I was a bit surprised. I'd seen photos of her gorgeous New Mexico wedding and knew that living in cities like New York, Berkeley and Seattle would've exposed her to stylish people and spaces. But Jasmine works full-time as a VP of Content for LaunchSquad, has two young kids, and admittedly felt overwhelmed by the design process. 

Here's a real snippet of her first email to me:

"Ummm can we really talk about helping with my house? Truly, I need help. And I don't trust anybody else. I so desperately want a house that's warm and welcoming and kid-friendly and personal, but I don't have the time or energy to really do it. Plus I'm not great at color; it doesn't come naturally to me. I second-guess myself."

I'm realizing that just because someone has great taste and can recognize it in other people's spaces, they may not have the a) time b) energy or c) vision to do it on their own (or all 3). Jasmine took a bunch photos and measurements of her pretty narrow open concept living/dining room for me (see below) and then filled out my Spruce Your Space questionnaire.

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What did I learn? That she's drawn to the colors that she wears a lot in clothing (we all are): navy, olive green, neutrals. She also loves modern lines, abstract art, and black and white photography. I learned that she met her husband in high school (they started dating later as adults) and that she loves some pattern, but only neutral doses of it. The more I know about a client, the more I can make the space really exude their personality.

And so with this breadth of information, I started pulling inspiration for a Mood Board that I consider like the first paragraph of a story. It's always where I start when I write, and it's often the toughest to nail down. But once I'm happy with it, everything else just flows.

 From L to R, Clockwise:  Pillow ,  Print ,  Cabinet ,  Coffee table ,  Pendant ,  Rug ,  Fabric ,  Cabinet ,  Chair

Once Jasmine approved my mood board, I designed the space from the bottom up. I layered rugs she already had to create depth on the floor and incorporated entryway storage for keys, hats, umbrellas and more. Speaking of storage, I pulled in a coffee table that was clean and super kid-friendly, but also offers inner storage. I concealed her tv inside a beautiful console, placed an additional chair in the space to create a cozy seating arrangement, and then designed a gallery wall of artwork including family photos, a modern print from a favorite artist, and a brass wall hanging that I saw she had pinned on Pinterest. My favorite part: an old postcard of the high school where she met her husband that I found on Ebay and recommended she buy and blow up for the wall. 

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When Jasmine received the designs, her response said it all: 

"Jourdan!! We love this so much. Love that you found a Boulder High postcard and love that it all just makes so much *sense* with what we already have and our style. Also the art is perfect. All of it. I never, ever would have been able to do it myself.  I can't really describe how amazing it is to have everything all picked out but still feel like it's totally my taste and also just really ... human. And practical."

Mission accomplished.

Why I'm Such a Fan of Rattan

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Last weekend I scored a Craig's List gold medal: these 6 rattan dining chairs in great condition for $60—total!! I could barely get to the seller's house fast enough. 

The resurgence of rattan over the past few years shouldn't surprise anyone. Americans have always had a thing for wicker (that's the name for the type of weave, rather than the material itself). The first wicker piece —a baby cradle—floated over on the Mayflower in 1620. 

A vine-like plant that's part of the palm family, rattan is cool, casual and unprentitious. It's flexible—literally—and can be shaped all sorts of cool, sculptural ways. It's also incredibly durable and can withstand lots of wear and tear. To me, it's one-part tropical vacation, one-part grandma chic and I can't get enough. Did I also mention that's it's usually very affordable? 

 Photo by Lesley Unruh ; Design by  Matthew Caughy

Photo by Lesley Unruh ; Design by Matthew Caughy

 Design by Atelier Vime

Design by Atelier Vime

If you're afraid rattan feels a bit too bohemian for you, consider it in small doses (a plant stand or a bowl rather than a chair or headboard). Because of its neutral color and classic look, it works in lots of spaces. But because it's everywhere, search for pieces with unique features and interesting shapes. Also I'd recommend pieces that veer to the lighter side of rattan rather than those that look more orange. Lighter, brighter pieces are more versatile and timeless. And if you don't feel like/have the time to scour flea markets and Craig's List for vintage goods, here are few new guys that have the style covered.  

 

 

What Makes Spruce Special

 Photo by Susan Woog Wagner

Photo by Susan Woog Wagner

I'm well aware that spending money on interior design is a straight-up luxury. Particularly during such dismal days—when supporting non-profits such as Planned Parenthood and RAICES rank high on the priority list—it's almost unjustifiable to splurge on fancy interior design services unless you have a huge bank account. 

But our homes are our safe spaces, and they should make us feel happy and at ease. Rooms that don't function well or don't reflect our values, perspective or needs are frustrating. There's also a good chance that your space doesn't need a total overhaul. You might already have a few pieces of furniture you love or a layout that's only halfway working for you. And is your style classic with a modern edge? Traditional with a bohemian twist? Does it even need to be defined (short answer: no)?

One of the many ways Spruce is different from other e-design services is the level of personalization I bring to the table...or chair...or lamp. In my design questionnaire, I've included personal questions not typically considered about life details and family needs and even how you met your partner. I'll let a recent client explain it from her perspective: 

"Jourdan's service is so personal and personalized. She culled through years of my social media posts to learn my interests and style to put together pieces that she thought I would like. She also got swatches of my wall paint and pulled coordinating paint colors and fabric swatches that she sent to me in the actual mail. I bet the big design websites don't do any of this! Jourdan also listened carefully to my requests regarding color scheme and had the good sense to suggest pieces that were pet-friendly, childproof and practical, in addition to being beautiful and budget conscious."

When the client mentioned that her mother-in-law was a photographer and they liked her images, I scoured MIL's website for a photo to include on the requested gallery wall.  The one I landed one has great colors, and I love the carefree, child-like feeling it evokes—which is perfect for this young family's first home. That single photo became the starting point for the entire room. Below is the gallery wall I designed featuring images that are very personal (see: baby) and very pretty (see: baby, again). Going that extra mile to make someone happy will always be worth the journey for me.

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It's Not Me, It's You

The story of scoring my first job instantly ages me. I applied to said job—an editorial assistant position at a regional parenting magazine—by faxing in my resume. My friend spotted an ad in the New York Times and we ran to a Chase bank and begged to borrow the fax machine. It was far from the dream gig I'd imagined for myself, but it helped pay the bills on a very expensive one-bedroom Upper West Side apartment I was splitting with my friend (two "adult" women sharing a king-sized bed). To make ends meet, I worked at night and on the weekends in a ritzy railroad-thin neighborhood shoe store selling Italian mules to old Jewish women.

I interviewed with HR departments at national magazines for the next 1.5 years, only to eventually land a job through a friend at InStyle. I spent the next five years climbing the corporate ladder, learning how to marry words and photos in story format and all about style and design. And while I studied and wrote about some of the most opulent homes in the world [interviewing Oprah about her personal library full of first editions, for example], it all felt so unattainable and out of touch.

Somewhere along the way—while transforming teeny tiny city apartments into my personal sanctuaries with little money to my name—I fell in love with vintage furniture, clothes, and shopping locally. I loved wearing clothes and decorating my home in pieces that were one-of-a-kind. So I couldn't live in expensive lofts or travel to exotic places. I had a sense of style nonetheless. 

I've schlepped those very pieces between apartments and to my first home hundreds of miles away. They tell the story of my life, my husband's life, and the life we're building together. My grandmother's paintings, his collection of fishing flies, a watercolor print we purchased of our old street in Brooklyn.

But this isn't a story about me. I'm not interested in creating spaces that are cookie cutters versions of my own home or my style. My goal with Spruce is to interview clients the way I would for a story, uncovering all the great details that make them unique.  And using what I uncover, design a stylish space that looks and feels like them at their best. No two stories—or spaces—will ever be the same.

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