Photo Ledges and Never Ending Love for Martha

It was Michael's birthday this last weekend. He loves books more than just about anything (evidence), so we squeezed in a few stops to his favorite antique and used books stores as part of his b-day celebration. 

I know. We're party animals, what can I say? 

While he was browsing the smarty pants sections, I found some cool, new-to-me art and design books. (I'm excited to share some of them with you in a couple of Book Club posts!) One of my favorite finds was a set of three books from Martha Stewart. They were published in the 90s (almost 20 years ago!!), but they feel incredibly fresh to me. I had to scan in this page to share with you. Girlfriend was DIYing picture ledges while I was still in high school.

I've been wanting to make a similar photo ledge wall in our house. We've been here for a few years now, and I'm ready to switch some things up a little, including taking down the gallery wall. I love having a place to share my favorite art finds, but I'm craving something more personal in here. I would love to print out and frame more family photos - mostly just candid shots.

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We did something like this in my mom's formal living room. We printed out old wedding portraits of our family members and baby pictures of the grandkids. And then we used two rows of two IKEA picture ledges and just caulked the seam in the middle.

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I'd love to figure out a great low bookshelf or long wall-mounted credenza for underneath the ledges that I'm hoping to make for my living room. I moved the formerly red (also formerly white) and now pale mint credenza up to the studio, and I am missing having a big anchor piece in the room. I'll have to figure something out there. I also bought a new rug that arrives this week and I'm going to paint our coffee table and do a few other quick-fixes. I'm most excited about this picture ledge project though! These are a few of my inspiration images:

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Can you even believe that Martha image though? There are so many goodies in that book series that I'd never seen before!

Tips of the Trade: Kitchen Styling

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A big kitchen with a lot of counter space can present a styling challenge. Too many things and the space will look cluttered quickly, but not enough accessories in a big space looks sparse and unfinished. It's a fine line! 

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For the most part, I like countertops to be pretty clear but I think it's fun to add color and layers to open shelving. We had some extra quartzite from the counters in my parents kitchen and decided to use it for the open shelves in the dead space above the sink. When it was time to get my parent's more settled in their new kitchen, I brought up a ton of accessories to play with and we also used a lot of family heirlooms that my mom has had for years.

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Sometimes an empty shelf can feel like the most daunting thing. Where to start with the styling?? I have listed out the most basic of steps below, but I will say that one helpful tip is to know your shelf height before you start collecting styling items. You obviously don't want items that are too tall to fit, but also be careful to not have too many too-small accessories. Sure, you can stack items to create height, but you want there to be several hero pieces that fill at least 2/3 of the height of your shelves. Paying attention to scale this way helps keep the shelves from getting too busy.

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Big, white dishes are the perfect foundation pieces for kitchen shelf styling. I like a few oversized platters (these are from Target and Homegoods), a cake plate or two and a stack of mixing bowls.

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After the big white pieces, I like to add in a few colorful, larger items, like a ginger jar, a flow blue platter and this special Lynne Millar painting I had framed in a pretty burlwood.

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The next step is to fill in the layers with neutral pieces in interesting shapes. This helps things to not get too crazy with color. I added a vintage fluted bowl and a stack of my great grandmother's off-white wedding china here.

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Then we added a few smaller items - like marble candle holders and pink tapers, a little blue and white sugar bowl, and a pair of silver salt and pepper shakers. And we added the counter top accessories too. Bread boards are always a great idea (and look so pretty against stone counters) and a little bit of greenery is perfect for every room, including kitchens and bathrooms.

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The best part of all is everything can be changed around easily! One of my favorite post-Sunday-dinner-clean-up activities is a good kitchen styling session! :) Here are some of my go-to pieces:

Mercer PlatterBone China Platter
Mixing Bowl,  CB2 Basket Bowl, Marble Cake Stands
Blue Tea Container, Jade Beater Bowl, Lynne Millar- Yellow Rose 1
Marble Salt and Pepper, Salt Cellar, Wood Candlesticks
Heritage Bread Board,  Iona Cheese Boards
Linen Market Dishtowels, Morandi Pitcher
What am I missing in this list? Do you have a favorite oversized white platter or bread board source?

Our New Playhouse

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If you ask our girls what they miss the most about NYC, our old playhouse in Brooklyn will most definitely get a mention. It's been discussed MANY times in the past two years since we've moved - also the fact that we promised to build the girls a new one and hadn't yet followed through on that. (Whoops!) They had done what we asked them to do and earned their part of the playhouse with extra chores all summer long, so Michael and I decided to tackle building it this month so they could enjoy it a little bit before school starts.

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There are Amish playhouse kits that you can buy sort of piece meal depending on how customized you want your playhouse to be. We bought a bare bones version both for aesthetics and to help save on costs. We had to pick up a lot of our own materials this way, but I liked getting to choose the finishes!

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We started by building the base out of 2x4s and 4x4s in a graveled area in our backyard. It had always been this strange little spot that we didn't ever use or really know what to do with. I think maybe the previous owners parked an extra vehicle here or something since it's not that far away from an RV gate? Not sure. But it worked perfectly as a spot for our playhouse since it's close to the swing set, but away from the sprinklers.

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Once the base of the playhouse was built, we made floors out of 1/4" plywood cut down to 8" strips (a thinner version of just what I did to make floors in the studio).

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The walls of the house went up quickly (this is the bulk of what comes in the "kit"). The trusses and the roof took a little more work to get right. (I really wish we would have thought to pull out that rosemary bush in front of the big door beforehand! It was a pain to work around!)

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Once we put on the felt paper for the roof, things started to feel real and exciting and the momentum really picked up! Pretty sure the girls were squealing at this point. :)

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I didn't want to just do asphalt shingles and actually went to a roofing supplier looking for a metal roof option so I could get that modern farmhouse style. But the price and convenience and look of the cedar shingles won me over in the end!

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So now we're going for a cape-meets-farmhouse-in-the-desert look. ;)

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I put on the cedar shingles over the course of two mornings (with a big thanks to Heather for holding the ladder while I hung the top few rows!) using our pneumatic staple gun. It wasn't too bad installing each shingle individually, just a little slow-going. I think it was totally worth it in the end. We paid a little more for the cedar shake shingles than asphalt, but it wasn't as expensive as the original metal roof idea was. And I think, while I love metal roofs on houses, the metal would have made the playhouse look like a shed. Not good!

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As you can see, the playhouse gets a good amount of hot Arizona sun during the day, so I wanted to make sure to use a good exterior paint on the outside of the playhouse. I've been working with BEHR on their interior paints (a big how to paint interior rooms post here, in case you missed it!), and I was excited to get to try their Marquee line for this project. It's a great paint with great coverage, in the prettiest colors. I knew I wanted to go with a warm white on the main part of the house, but I thought about doing an accent color on the door and trim. There were a few incredible navy options that were really tempting me!

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Colors from top left, going clockwise: Naturalism, Opera Glasses, Limousine Leather, Compass Blue, Curio, Statuesque, White Lie, Looking Glass (side note: aren't those great color names!?)

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I decided to go with 'White Lie' (MQ3-55) for the body of the house. True to BEHR's promise, the Marquee exterior paint covered the old bad tan in just one coat!

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I loved the all-white look so much, that I decided to hold off on an accent color for the doors and trim. I think it looks a little more modern this way, though it's easy to go pick up a quart of paint in an accent color if we decide to ever go that route!

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While the paint dried, I went to Home Depot and picked up some cinder blocks and pavers to make little stone steps and to curb out the new mulch we laid down after raking out the gravel.

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I used cement glue to attach the pavers to the cinder block.

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And then we added two trellises and white bougainvilleas to the side.  

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Bougainvillea in any color will always be a favorite of mine! The big blooms are so happy and the plants do so well in the heat here.

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The girls helped me plant a few sweet potato vines in the planter boxes. I love their bright green color and they also do well in full sun.

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I think they're so pretty against the clean white paint color!

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The inside of the playhouse is small, but still bigger than our last one - perfect for our growing girls.

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My designer-mommy heart has been bursting with pride, watching them draw up floor plans and pick paint samples and fabric for little cafe curtains. Though I'm not so sure I'll be giving them sign-off on horse wallpaper and pink floors. :)

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I'd like to just paint everything in here white (same color and paint as the Marquee on the outside), so that it looks brighter inside. We'll see if I can convince the girls to be satisfied with some horse art and maybe a painted-on pink rug or something. :)

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I am SO glad we decided to build this playhouse! Before we started, I was really intimidated by the idea of doing this without professional help, and initially I wanted to hire a handy man, but Michael told me he thought we could handle it and that he really wanted the girls to see us building it for them, so I got over it. Some of my favorite childhood memories were spent in the tree house and the playhouses my dad and mom built for me and my brothers and sisters at the different places we lived growing up. I remember my parents working hard for us and feeling like it was SO cool that they could do tough things.

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I feel like this was such a success and I've been giving us major pats on the back all week. It WAS hard, but we did it! And we had fun doing it. And I know we'll be loving and using this playhouse for so many years to come. :)

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This post is brought to you by BEHR. Color that's True to Hue. If you feel it you can find it. Visit


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