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


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 😉

If You Can’t Stand the Heat…

I love me some chartreuse.  But its days in my kitchen are numbered.  I don’t think it ever REALLY fit in our kitchen space with the light wood cabinets and the multi-colored flecked granite counter tops.


(Please excuse the empty paper towel holder and the Tupperware; just keeping it real folks)

So after these little beauties caught my eye, I knew it was time for a change:

West Elm Cafe Stripe Oven Mitt

(West Elm Oven Mitt – Cafe Stripe)

West Elm Cafe Stripe Apron

(West Elm Cotton Apron – Cafe Stripe)

I’m obsessed with the old school stripes and I think the blue & white combo will look clean and simple.  They also happen to compliment a lot of the red utensils we already own from Williams-Sonoma and have out on our countertop:


So what’s the next step?  A rug for the floor obviously.  I’d love to find one of those cushioned floor mats to help save my feet for the few times a month I actually spend more than 5 minutes at a time in there.  But it’s rather difficult to find one that isn’t covered in grape leaves, flowers, or cartoonish chefs or doesn’t look like it was pulled from the kitchen of your local Olive Garden.  So for now, in keeping with my life-long love of stripes (and sticking with my non-existent budget), I’m thinking of picking up one of these guys from Ikea this weekend:


For art, I’m thinking of going a little non-traditional.  On a recent outing to our favorite brunch spot, Toast, Jefe and I saw this tea towel from Crate & Barrel underneath the glass of the tabletop.  I’m thinking it would look great framed on the wall (not to mention helpful for this neophyte cook):


Lastly, I’m thinking of a little accessorizing for the counter area to the left of our stove top which is basically just dead space.  There’s a solid 3′ by 2′ of counter space, however, it’s wedged in the corner rendering it completely unusable for use while cooking.  So it’s really just a storage space for a wine rack, a bottle of balsamic vinegar that’s too tall for our shelf inside our cabinets, and my recipe box that admittedly hasn’t gotten much use in the last few months.


While meandering through Marshall’s last night, I came across some white ceramic canisters with chalkboard labels, similar to the ones below from Crate & Barrel that I think would be a great addition to that area (although mine would be filled with coffee beans, ground coffee, and Splenda):


Consider this kitchen on its way to being fully updated!


In other news, while walking past a pet store in New York last weekend (and lots of pestering on my part), Jefe FINALLY agreed that we can look in to getting a dog.  We still need to do our research in terms of costs, finding the type of dog we want (Miss Sneezy here has to be a bit particular), and everything that’s involved in training a dog, but I can’t help but let my excitement get the best of me.  So you may see an upcoming post or two that’s focused on aesthetically pleasing dog beds, leashes and food/water bowls.  Consider yourself warned 😉


April Lust List

Today I bring you this month’s LUST LIST – things that have caught my eye and made me check when my next payday is.  The weather in LA, along with the start of the baseball season, has really made it feel like spring out here.  It has me longing for days spent on the beach (and clearly continuing my obsession of Pantone’s color of the year Emerald) and nights in the stands at Dodger stadium.  I’ve also been eyeing some new kitchen linens as I think my love affair with chartreuse is quickly coming to an end.  When combined with my current Operation Homify, I’m leaning much more towards the traditional; I’ve been daydreaming again that I’m Martha Stewart and Williams-Sonoma is my playground.  And I love me a good stripe of ANY kind…… without further ado, I bring you:


  1. ’47 Brand Brooklyn Dodger Hat – $19.99
  2. JCrew Twist Bandeau Tank (in vivid jade) – $118
  3. JCrew Superga Classic Sneakers (in white) – $65
  4. West Elm Cotton Apron (Cafe Stripe) – $24
  5. West Elm Cotton Oven Mitt (Cafe Stripe) – $12
  6. Target Nate Berkus Dipped Bowl – $15.99

What have you guys been lusting after lately?  Home decor?  A new pair of shoes for spring?  I’m headed off to NYC with Jefe this weekend for a quick visit with friends and family and I’m bound to do a little shopping while I’m there.  I’ll be sure to share my finds with all of you once I’m back!

Martha Freaking Stewart

Lately I’ve been jonesing to cook.  Maybe it’s the excessive trips to Crate & Barrel that Jefe and I have been making.  Maybe it’s all the other bloggers out there who are always posting some awesome deliciousness they had time to make.  Maybe it’s the fact that I want to continually rewatch “Julie & Julia.”  Or it could just be that damn Pinterest.  Nevertheless, I’ve decided that not only can I organize and decorate, but that I can, in fact, cook.  World, meet Martha Stewart 2.0.

This week’s feast was thanks to a belated “Christmas” gift from Jefe.  It went a little something like this: he saw me fawning all over this particular cook book every time we walked by the display at C&B or West Elm for the last 3 months.  It got to the “I just want to touch it” levels of desire.  So the other day, he surprised me with it after I had stroked the cover for the umpteenth time.  So naturally I had to cook him SOMETHING in return.

What to Cook & How to Cook It

So I leafed through and after having more hunger pains than I could stand, I picked a) some of the easiest reciples I could find in the book that I thought I couldn’t screw up and b) something that wouldn’t totally destroy my diet (I’m back on the Weight Watchers wagon). So here was the menu:

  • Stuffed Chicken with Tomatoes & Arugula (one can never get enough goat cheese)
  • Dressed Green Beans (I’ll take my veggies with BACON)
  • Baked Apple Streusel, Weight Watchers style

I admit to not being a food blogger and I’m still trying to figure out all the settings on our new digital camera so excuse me for the lack of exact focus.  Here we go, step by step:

Recipe Page

Chicken stuffed with goat cheese

Chicken stuffed with goat cheese

And now it's wrapped in BACON!

And now it’s wrapped in BACON!



Cut tomatoes

Pre-oven awesomeness

Pre-oven awesomeness

Post-oven deliciousness

Post-oven deliciousness

And now for the sides…. and what else was I supposed to do with 4 extra strips of bacon?!


I guess there should be something to go with the bacon....

Bacon Green Beans

Bacon Green Beans with a Dijon Mustard dressing

I have to say, for a very occasional cooker, it turned out pretty damn good.  My kitchen, however, may or may not have looked like a war zone (yes, it was 3 hours later before I actually managed to scrub it all down).  And now, the finished product:


(Insert picture of baked apple streusel awesomeness that I was too tired and Jefe was too impatient to wait to take pictures of)

The meal tasted pretty great.  A few things to note for those that are interested in trying: maybe I didn’t brown the bacon enough on the chicken but it really didn’t add much to it (and was admittedly a little limp).  I could have used MORE goat cheese and tomatoes though and been perfectly content.

The green beans could go just bacon, just dijon or with both.  It was admittedly a *little* much because you lost some of the essence of the green bean and were just overwhelmed by bacon and mustard.  That’s not always a bad thing, but if you’re looking to feel more like you just inhaled a cup of green veggies, maybe lay off the bacon (I can’t believe I just typed that…)

And I have to admit, every time I channel my inner Martha in the kitchen, I discover some other kitchen gadget I can’t live without.  Like a knife specifically for cutting tomatoes.  We just got a great knife set from Crate and Barrel (thanks to Jefe’s parents) but I still haven’t found which one will do the job of slicing without smooshing (or inadvertently slicing myself in the process…I’m not looking to make a trip to Cedars twice in one year for that particular injury).  Anyways, my overflowing kitchen cabinets seem to indicate that I will NOT be purchasing more kitchenwares anytime soon. But  how I long for the days of my future dream kitchen with an overabundance of counter space and cabinet storage….

Cooking Post 01.26.2013

The West of Elm

Jefe’s least favorite part about our new hood – we have a West Elm 2 BLOCKS AWAY.  How have I lived the previous 28 years of my life without this magnificent beacon of home decor so close?!  I am obsessed.  It’s a problem.  Jefe may or may not be looking in to WEAA – West Elm Addicts Anonymous.  Thankfully, the ole budget won’t allow me to take home the store and I’m positive that I’m too freakin slow to try and grab a throw pillow and make a run for it.

With all that said, I did a little bit of window shopping this past weekend.  Below are some of the highlights:

Mercury glass and owls are my new crack.  I just can’t get enough of either.  Apparently, neither can West Elm.  I bought the little guy on the left, Hootie, on a previous trip:

So I was hunting down a companion for him.  (Jefe already vetoed Hootie’s bigger brother, who is on the right).  I ended up with this little votive that looks like a tree trunk:

Then I ventured over to the wall ‘o pillows.  I was searching for something to replace a recently failed no-sew pillow cover project.  I came across these two hand sewn favorites:


I do, however, have a trouble spending so much money on something with “throw” in it’s name.  Same goes for these warm-hued blankets (anything fall-colored is my jam) that would look amazing on my couch.  Unfortunately they were also not machine washable which is kind of a necessity in my book.


Then I ventured up to the kitchen section.  I found these woodland creatures that I’m trying to convince Jefe, (aka-Cookie Monster) to let me adopt.  They also still have this tea towel that I might as well shell out the $9 it costs for the amount of times I’ve looked at it.


Then on my way out, I was magnetically drawn to the shiny objects.   How I wish I had a place big enough for fancy holiday parties that required such beautiful dish and glassware…


It’s all just so pretty….. I need the sale fairies to show up pronto.