Dorm Meets Design

…And Sledge is back with a vengeance!

Let’s talk college. For those of us who have been there, we all remember the grueling late nights of studying (or rehearsing for us theater folk), the horrible cafeteria options and the dorms. Oh the dorms. That ridiculous rite of passage where by you’re forced to live with a perfect stranger for 9-10 months and cram your entire life into a poorly lit space the size of a shoe box.

Well for you new readers, I promise you there’s hope. Your first year does NOT have to consist of you gaining the freshman 15 and sleeping in a drafty room that reminds you of where Martha spent a year in West Virginia.

No matter how many times you’ve scoured your school’s website and Google Image searched, you really have no idea what kind of space you are walking in to. Maybe a little something like this:

Empty Dorm

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Or worse:

Empty Dorm 2

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But there are plenty of tips, tricks and advice towards making this cement block of a space feel like home.

The key to really enjoying your space is making it comfortable. That starts with the piece of furniture you’re going to spend most of your time in: the bed. Let’s start with support – a solid mattress pad and an egg crate are musts. Egg crate you ask? Yes, you can thank me later. Those mattresses are likely very uncomfortable and any extra cushion will be appreciated.

Good sheets are just as important. I’d recommend going a step up in the quality department. Seriously. Those college nights can be long, no matter what you’re doing and you’ll love coming home to a bed that doesn’t like it came out of Van Wilder.  Personally, Jefe and I loved our Striped Sheet Set from West Elm.  They’re extremely soft and held up really well after 2 years of solid use.

West Elm Striped Sheet Set

Comforters and duvets should be washable. Trust me. This will be your bed, couch, study spot, dinner table, and dance floor all in one. Spills are bound to happen. In terms of style, I’d pick something that’s uniquely you without screaming “Star Wars is my jam!” Going a little bit more sophisticated never hurt anyone.   A moderately priced duvet may be your best best as it’s washable and can be swapped out if you tire of it.  This actually was my duvet eons ago, in a bit more a sage color, and it was worth every penny; it got softer with every washing and paired nicely with the buttery yellow walls of my bedroom in our sorority house.  To pair with those great striped sheets, you could try a luxurious, yet neutral option from H&M’s new home line:

H&M Duvet Cover

Now lets talk pillows. As I suggested, that bed is going to get some serious use (wink wink). So besides your usual pillows, I would get a few “decorative” ones that can serve multiple purposes. I’ve found bigger European and body pillows are best and can turn any bed in to a couch or help create an extra seat on the floor.

Bed to Sofa

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Luckily, floor pillows are all the rage so it should be easy to find something in your particular taste.  I’m a big fan of these floor cushions that would work great as a backrest on  your bed or tossed on the floor for added seating.

World Market Floor Pillow

Lastly, I would add a throw blanket. It can be folded at the end of the bed, draped over the foot rail or used for extra warmth in cold months (or to cover your new best friend who fell asleep on your floor after a late night out).  And it adds a homey touch to an otherwise cold room.

Dorm Bed with throw

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After move-in day and you’ve had the chance to spend some time in your space, you can always look in to some DIY options for headboards. Is it necessary? No. Will it help make the space feel like it’s more yours and less like a cement cell? Definitely.   There are plenty of options from large wall decals to simple pieces of foam and fabric-wrapped wood that would really take your room up a notch. You’d be amazed what batting your eyes at that upper-class man with a pick-up truck will get you. Usually a free trip to Home Depot for the wood for your DIY project AND an invite to his house party later that night ;-).  Alternatively, you could go the wall decal route:

DIY Decal Headboard

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While researching this post, I also came across this great new invention: over the bed storage that can also double as a “headboard”.  You can customize the back wall with decorative paper or fabric and a little modge podge.  It also gives you some much needed storage above your bed for those photos of your besties from back home.

Overbed storage 2

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Overbed storage

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Lets talk lighting. Quite possibly the worst part of dorm life – those horrendous overhead fluorescents that make your skin look green. So we are going to TURN. THEM. OFF. Lamps are your best friends. It’s safe to say that you’ll need a minimum of 2 to truly avoid the overhead: one for your desk exclusively and one for the rest of the living space. And your eyes will thank you for that soft white light while you’re cranking away during a marathon study session. It will also give your space a great, homey atmosphere that will be the envy of all your hallmates. I would recommend a style that could easily transition to a first apartment so you’re not buying something as a temporary solution.

PB Teen Task Lamp

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Land of Nod lamp

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And that rule applies for just about everything other than those extra long twin sheets that you will most certainly never use again: purchase for longevity.  My third year of college I bought a queen size duvet for my twin bed; my only regret was not doing it 2 years earlier.   I manage to found one that was great quality (without breaking my budget),  so I was able to keep it for the long haul and still use it today.

Desk space. Lets get creative. Do you really need that plain mesh pencil cup from Office Depot? How about a pretty monogrammed mug from CWonder instead? It serves the same purpose but gives you a little panache.

CWonder Mug

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I think the same can be applied for just about anything: why choose a plain notebook when you can get one covered in chevrons that makes you smile every time you look at it? Or how about a cork board covered in fabric? Maybe some DIY bookends (kids still use actual books, right? Or am I that old?!)

CB2 Bookends

These are from CB2 but could EASILY be DIY’ed

The point is, take this as an opportunity to really exercise your imagination in how you can really put your stamp on the space so it’s as inviting as possible.

Storage. You’re gonna need more, no matter who you are. Unless you’re one of those lucky kids that gets an apartment in their first year and are spared this form of mild university-condoned hazing, you will inevitably need some form of storage beyond the blond wood, 30 year old dresser you’re issued. Once you’ve spent some time in your space, figured out what fits where and what still needs a home, plan that trip to your local Target (or if you’re one of the lucky kids near a city, a nearby Ikea). Modern, design savvy storage has come a long way since the standard clear plastic bins of my college years. Below are some suggestions:

Ikea Cart

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World Market Rolling Locker

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(Drink cart anyone?! For your bottles of Diet Coke…)

Closet storage is pretty straightforward.  Just find the things that work for you and your space.  3M hooks can be a lifesaver as are those hangers that can hold 4 pairs of pants at once.  I also used to drape my scarves over hangers to save space.

Lastly, let’s talk food. Yes, I know you’ve got a meal plan. But there will inevitebly be those times that you’re just sick of the cafeteria’s chicken parm or you really want a late night snack and don’t feel like leaving the building. For this, I’d recommend one full set of dishware. We’re talking real metal silverware kids. As for the plates, melamine has come a LONG way and there are so many cute options now. Just make sure that yours is microwavable as you never know when you want to heat up some leftovers or make a bowl of soup. Yes, you will have to wash them, but there’s just something nice about having something to call your own that is semi-permanent. And besides – you don’t have the space to hoard stacks of paper plates and cups.

Now for some inspiration of some epic dorm room design:

Boho Bold Glam

Boho Glam

Epic

This is probably the most shared, epic dorm room design I’ve ever seen.

Minimal Glam

Minimal Glam

Simple and Classy Room

So simple and easy!  A rug, some art, a pedestal, a plant and a new bookshelf.

Sorority Girl Room

For the bright and bubbly sorority girl

Traditionally Masculin

Traditional and masculin.  Love the suitcases for some under the bed storage!

As you can see, dorm room decorating has come a long way.  So here are two great examples of how to do a blue dorm room, on a budget, in different styles to really make your space your own:

PREPPY FEMININE

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MASCULINE ECLECTIC

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Mid-Century Storage

Today’s reader Q & A comes from another college friend, Christy (Carnegie Mellon represent!). She, her husband Chris and their adorable daughter Hazel just moved cross-country from a condo in the heart of Chicago to an incredible tree-lined property, complete with horse barn, in Seattle.  But between two grown adults that work from home, a baby on the verge of walking and a menagerie of pets, they are in desperate need of storage until they have the opportunity to start the large renovation they’ve been planning.

As a result, they’re not looking to spend a lot as most of these solutions will be temporary. But, as both Christy and Chris are both very design-minded and crazy artistic, I’ve been charged with the  request that my solutions “can’t look ugly” and in terms of style, Christy said “I hate that country shit.”  She is also definitely not a fan of wicker (so there goes most of my basket ideas).

Here’s a little bit more about Christy’s design storage dilemma, in her own words:

OK, so here’s the deal:

We are completely overhauling this house within the next year (gut remodel), so I have been hesitant to fully “move in” and make my space just so. However, I have recently come to the realization that with all the other stress in my life, at the very least, I need my most-lived-in space to be a lot more livable in order to maintain a peaceful state of mind. (aka: SANITY)
 

I spend most of my time when I’m at home in these two connected rooms: the family room and kitchen. The family room serves three purposes: 1) Hazel’s play room, 2) My office, and 3) Relaxing on the couch in front of the fireplace (sadly, this rarely happens). 

 
This house has many attractive features, but one thing it is severely lacking is STORAGE. You will see from the pics of my kitchen that we are exploding out of the space. Believe it or not, my kitchen in our condo in Chicago had about double the storage space. We had tall ceilings with floor-to-celiling cabinetry, a large original built-in in the hallway, and a huge pantry. Now we have no built ins, no pantry, and only one row of cabinets (first world problems!) But it does suck, because then we end up using our precious counter space for things like loaves of bread and ridiculous milk frothers.
 
Oh – and our aesthetic tastes tend to converge around Mid-Century Modern +/or warm contemporary. We hate ultra-modern stuff (read: cold!) and love a good, simple, hardwood furniture piece. We dislike things that are “clunky.” I love industrial objects juxtaposed with warm organic elements. It’s the German in me coming to terms with the Artist somewhere in the middle. Luckily, my husband and I agree on most things aesthetic.
 
Anyways. I need help. And I can’t spend a lot of money. And I have like no time.  –  Christy

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Drackett_1

So, let’s attack the kitchen first as it seems their milk frothers are running over. I’d assume all of their cabinet space is filled to the brim. So with that in mind, let’s take a look at any additional areas we could take advantage of for more storage. Next to their wall oven is the perfect place to add some hanging shelves. Depending on how sturdy Christy can make them (she’s quite handy and is the one who taught me how to use a drill), she could use it as extra space for smaller kitchen gadgets, like those frothers, coffee grinders, etc. Alternatively, she could use those shelves for additional food storage.
kitchen shelves straight shot
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open shelving ikea
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In the open area to the right of the wall oven where the windows are, I’d recommend a bigger island/bar cart than what they have now. It will give them both additional table-top surface as well as additional space on the shelves below. I think the Ikea Forhoja is her best bet. It’s simple, made of real wood (and could be customized if she chose to keep it) and always has high demand for resale on Craigslist if they choose to not bring it back in to their renovated space.  It could also be put to great use for dinner prep if they are living in the space through the reno.  Finding a space to make a makeshift kitchen is essential to surviving a major renovation.
forhoja

forhoja 2

Moving in to the living room, the first thing I would add is a console table behind their sofa. This will give them a shelf for additional storage and an open area underneath to store some of Hazel’s larger toys without having them out in the open. I wouldn’t recommend this table in terms of style for Christy, but it illustrates a creative way to store kids toys in an aesthetically pleasing way:
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Some examples of great console tables that would coordinate with their current style are the Foundry table from CB2 for an industrial look or a vintage piece like this mid-century modern classic.

Cb2 Table

MCM Table

Underneath their new console or their coffee table, I would add some Christy-approved baskets for Hazel’s smaller toys. These from CB2 and Crate & Barrel would fit right in to their mid-century modern style:

CB2
Crate & Barrel

For that long wall filled with Hazel accutrimont, there are two ways Christy could go: the budgetary/immediate option or the pain and gain option. My first inclination is to spend a little more on some pieces that Christy and Chris can keep and use after the reno such as a mid-century modern George Nelson-style shelving system. It would require some rearranging of their artwork, but this option would provide the additional storage they need in the living room and still provide lasting value to their overall furniture collection.George NelsonI see this as something that would be a great piece in Christy’s future office to display her artwork, stacks of books, and pictures with her favorite red-headed friend, kind of like this one:

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(Yes, this picture is now 10 years old… I suddenly feel ancient)

Alternatively, Christy could go with the lower cost option that is still made of solid wood and would not require her to put giant holes in her walls (or break her budget).  I’d suggest going with the World Market Espresso Charles Slanted Bookshelf.  The style is simple enough that it could blend with the current furnishings and as it’s moveable, could be reused post-reno.  Also good for resale on Craigslist if she chooses not to keep it.

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A third option would be to go the budget friendly, industrial route.  This option from Ikea would add a significant pop of color and hide toys behind closed doors.  Another great piece that could be carried over to the future space, repurposed in Christy’s art studio, or resold.
Ikea
Beyond furniture, there are a few other options Christy could opt for that would help corral throw blankets, magazines, and the stray dog chew toy.  I’m loving this basket (Christy, trust me on this one) from Crate & Barrel.Crate & Barrel Basket
This storage ottoman from CB2 would provide storage as well as an additional seat for when the house is filled with more grandparents than chairs, which from what I hear, is a likely scenario.
CB2 Stool

So what do you guys think – any other storage options you’d suggest for Christy?  And in case anyone doubted that a bunch of sorority girls knew how to drill (get your minds out of the gutters people!), here’s exhibit A:

christydrill

(This may be my favorite picture of this girl.  She’s kind of bad-ass.  Although I’m slightly afraid that she may be revoking my design privileges for posting this…)

Q & A: The Great Merge – Part 2

As promised, today I’m bringing you Part 2 of Ali & Justin’s GREAT MERGE. For this post, we’re going to focus on that awkward little room just off their bedroom. They’re in desperate need of storage space and have more dressers than they have room for.

For a little refresher, here’s Ali’s little video tour:

As they don’t really need an office space, the next obvious solution is to turn it in to a dressing area. There unfortunately isn’t any space to add any additional storage pieces so today’s all about with working with what they’ve got. Starting with the left side of the room, I would use that little section of wall beside the lamp for some accessory storage.

Sunglasses frame storagevia

Moving over to the small dresser with mirror, this is where Ali does her hair. And if I remember anything about living with Ali, she is always doing crazy stuff with her hair… like the time she tried to dye it white. I may never let her live that one down ;-).

I would use a combination of drawer organizers and decorative bowls for things like headbands, bobby pins, and smaller bottles of hair products. Then for combs, brushes, and smaller curling irons, she could use a large vase or apothecary jar.

Dresser top 3via

Dresser top storagevia

For larger bottles of product she could neatly arrange them on a tray to streamline the look.

Tray with bottlesvia

Tray with bottles 2via

Lastly, I would suggest using a nicer, metal 3M hook on the right side of the dresser by the coat rack to hang her hairdryer so it’s within arms reach but is out of sight.

If Ali and Justin really want to get ambitious, I would hang the flatscreen TV on the wall. As it’s already a decent distance from the bed, a few more inches won’t matter. That way, it clears significant space on top of the dresser for additional storage.  And Ali could turn it in to a mini gallery wall!

TV Wall Galleryvia

I would also utilize decorative or 3M hooks (to avoid putting holes in the wall) on the wall to the right of the larger dresser. Ali mentioned that Justin prefers to hang rather than fold and this area would give him some additional options besides tossing items on top of others on the coat rack.

3M Hookvia

Continuing around the room, I would get some nice baskets for the bookshelf they’re using for storage.  It appears to be a tall Billy bookcase, in which case you can buy additional, individual shelves to make the most of the space.  On either side of the bookshelf, I would use that for additional storage.  On one side, Ali could install some towel racks for all of those scarves I know she still has.

scarf organizer 2via

On the opposite side, she could use a variety of solutions for her jewelry.  I think this painted cutlery tray hung on the wall is a great, easy solution that adds some visual interest:

Cutlery Storagevia

Now, lets talk style. All of these little DIY storage and organization projects can be areas where Ali can really add some of her eclectic flare, between hanging her jewelry as decor to using vintage frames. To update the dressers, Ali can replace the hardware with something a bit more her style.

And to really amp things up, I would replace that overhead can light with something a little more glamorous and less 1980’s. It may require calling an electrian, but for the $50-$100 it would cost, it the difference it would make is worth the cost.

West Elm Capiz Light

I am loving the West Elm Small Capiz Chandelier which would bring in softer, rounder shapes in to the otherwise angular room. The price, however, may not be what Ali’s looking for, so she could try her hand at one of these DIY versions:

HGTV Faux Capiz Shell Pendant Tutorial
Design Sponge Capiz Shell Tutorial
Freshly Picked  Capiz Chandelier

Although this extra little room is a bit odd, I think with some of the above suggestions Ali can really add some much needed storage as well as real eclectic style that she likes so much.

So how about you all?  Any creative storage solutions that are both function and pretty on the eyes?  I’m a HUGE fan of 3M hooks; I use them for my long dangly necklaces and my fancy purses I’d rather not shove in the dusty space underneath our bed (just keeping it real, kids).

Q & A: The Great Merge – Part 1

Today’s reader Q & A comes from my college roomie, Ali.  Some of my first true interior design projects occured when she and I moved into a cramped room in our sorority house.  It included my first wall paint job (in the perfect buttery yellow) and styling the room with coordinating lamps, bedding and art.  Not to mention finding an appropriate place for the all-so-important mini-fridge and bar.

Since those days that suddenly seem too far away, Ali’s done her fair share of trapsing across the globe.  As a musician, artist, and all-around bohemian extraordinaire, her style is quite eclectic.  Recently she moved in with her boyfriend in Washington, D.C. and she’s encountered the same problem most of us have when taking the plunge into co-habitation with a significant other: the Great Merge of belongings.

Here’s Ali’s request:

Hi Mal!

Here’s some info on a couple of current problem areas (there are several more…) of our new place. As we enter Week 3 of unpacking and merging our belongings, we have most of the big furniture situated and are starting to unearth enough space to hang curtains, and soon some photos/art! 
We need help with storage and textiles in particular. Justin likes to keep an extra blanket on the bed when we’re not home to keep it from getting swathed in dog hair, and we’re in the market for a new one because I don’t like the color of the current one.  Also, the bench cushion is in really rough shape and I’d love to cover it. I know he’d prefer a solid (in corduroy if possible) and I’d love a muted pattern, even though our bedding has stripes. I’d love for it to be a rougher texture – wooly, or woven, or nubby. 
 
We’re trying to stay responsible and not buy new everything, and that’s tricky since my previous style leanings and Justin’s are pretty different. Thankfully nowadays we both agree that we really like the looks that West Elm has going, it’s modern enough for Justin and fits enough with my funky taste (fair isle navajo more patterns yes!) and plethora of instruments.   I have given in to cool colors in the bedroom, although that’s not natural for me. 
 
Here’s a video:
As this is a rather large task, I’ve decided to break this up in to a two-parter.  Today I’ll focus on the bedroom and in our next post we’ll take a look at the dressing room area.
For the bedroom, let’s break this down in to each area to tackle:
  • New throw blanket for their bed
  • New nightstands & lamps
  • Fabric to recover bedroom bench
  • Storage solutions
  • Add some much needed Ali flair in terms of styling

bed

Let’s start with the bedding.  They’re sticking with the above blue-toned striped duvet cover.  Adding another pattern in to this mix will be tough; I’d recommend a solid colored blanket with a woven texture for visual interest and to soften up the hard lines of the current bedding.  Seeing as Ali always prefers warmer colors, I’d go with a chocolate brown to really give it an inviting feel and coordinate with the stripes of the duvet cover.  As this blanket will be used primarily to prevent their dog Dakota from creating his own version of a blanket on the bed, I’d opt for something machine washable.

LLBean Vintage Matelasse Bedding - Chocolate Brown

My recommendation: the LLBean Vintage Matelasse Coverlet in Chocolate Brown.  It meets all of the above criteria and although it’s a little more expensive than something at Target or a comparable big box store (this guy clocks in @ $129 for a queen size), it’s made by a company that prides itself on quality so you know this puppy will last.  They also sell matching pillow shams so Ali could turn it into a true bedding set if she wanted, instead of it just being a barrier between Dakota and the bed.

West Elm Lexington Quilt & Shams

Or for a slightly more modern pattern in a lighter brown, I’d go with the West Elm Lexington Quilt + Shams in Clay would be a nice alternative.

West Elm Embroidered Blue Dot Pillow

To top off the bed, I would finish it with a throw pillow or two.  The West Elm Embroidered Dot Pillow Cover in Dusty Blue is a great option that is simple enough to coordinate with the current bedding, the LL Bean or West Elm coverlets and still gives a bit more of an organic feel to the bed.  The handsewn embroidery with its slightly uneven lines helps to soften the rest of the lines of the bedding.  The blue accent thread will tie in with the blue of the duvet.

Next up are the night stands.  For the left side, once they unpack some more boxes, they’ll have a decent amount of space over there.  As they’re hurting for storage, I would go the untraditional route.  Do NOT buy another nightstand.  I would go more with a cabinet or small dresser that sits at the right height.  It will give them more storage space and Ali a larger tabletop for things like her stacks of books, the lamp, etc.  And by going with something that is more unique, you won’t have to worry about it matching your pre-existing furniture.  My biggest pet peeve is quickly becoming bedroom sets that are too matchy matchy, including my own (what can I say, you live and you learn).

World Market Single Shutter Doors Sideboard

The Single Shutter Doors Holbrook Sideboard from World Market is a perfect example of something totally unique but serves all of the purposes Ali needs.  And it would add some much-needed eclectic style to the room.

Target Threshold Captains Mirror

Then above it, you could always hang a mirror, like this bargain – the Threshold Round Captain’s Mirror from Target (I still can’t believe this is $29.99 – I’m dying to get one for our place) to help reflect light from the nearby window and hang hooks on either side because as Ali puts it “We literally need a place to hang our hats.  We have so many hats!”  Spoken like a true Renaissance woman.

Ikea Bran Lamp

For styling purposes, I’d go with a ridiculously simple lamp on that side of the bed.  The BRÅN base and JÄRA shade from Ikea will do just the trick.  And because it’s basically clear glass and a white shade, there are a ton of ways to customize it if Ali so chooses, such as adding color to the glass base or sprucing up the shade.

On the other side of the bed, you could go with a coordinating lamp such as the Target Room Essentials Solid Shade Ceramic Silver lamp as Ali and Justin prefer more of a brushed silver look.

Target Room Essentials Solid Shade Ceramic Silver Lamp

But back to the nightstands, if Ali decides to work with what she’s got, I would recommend a little DIY.  The easiest trick to perk up those existing pieces is to swap out the knobs.  Anthropologie and even World Market have a TON of options to choose from.

Anthropologie Mini Bubble Glass Knob

Ali could also bust out a can of paint and really customize them to her linking.  She and I were never afraid to get a little dirty (or crazy) back in the day.  Obligatory college photo here:

Mal & Ali

Back to the nightstands again – depending on how crafty Ali wanted to get, I’d recommend something a little like this DIY from Megan over at Craft Habit.

Lastly, Ali definitely wants to get crafty with her bench.  She’d like to recover it with a durable fabric.  I’d recommend something a little heavier weight, such as upholstery fabric.  You could go solid, but I’d take the opportunity to bring in some more organic lines with a subtle pattern, such as the Waverly Strands/Sterling fabric from Joann Fabrics.

Joann Fabric Waverly Strands

So there you have part 1 of Ali & Justin’s GREAT MERGE.  Check back next week for Part 2!  I’ve also included the full mood board below, including a few pieces of art, the curtains, and the run they already own.

Ali's New Bedroom v.2

So what do you guys think?  Anyone else facing the Great Merge these days?  I learned a LOT from when Jefe and I did it– namely that I’m a hoarder and he’s a minimalist.  Somehow we’ve managed to meet in the middle.  For now 😉