Creating a Welcoming Guest Room

A few weeks ago, I spent a few days with some dear friends while traveling with three of my kids. The entire time I was staying in their home, I felt so relaxed. Traveling with kiddos can certainly be stressful, but this trip was remarkably smooth. As I was driving back home, I started thinking about why my stay was so delightful. I truly enjoyed the time with our precious friends. They made the kids and I feel so welcome and comfortable. I think much of what made the trip so lovely was the guest room where I stayed.

A few things really made the room stand out in my mind. The bed was comfortable and had plenty of pillows and blankets. The sheets were soft and there was a basket near the bed with extra blankets. Nightstands and lamps within easy reach of the bed were a huge plus.

The room was uncluttered. As you can see in the pictures, the room was not at all sparse, but plenty of spaces are left open. I stayed in the cutest bed and breakfast with a bestie a while ago. It had so many knick knacks that we couldn’t find our own things amongst the decor. Having uncluttered spaces to put my jewelry, toiletries and clothes was a game changer for me!

This one is really personal preference, but having window coverings that kept the room dark at night and let light in during the day was surprisingly pleasant. I shared the room with my 8 year old son, so darkening the room at night was essential. When we woke up in the morning, it was so nice to open the blinds and look outside. 

The ensuite bathroom was amazing and fully stocked with fluffy towels and toiletries. Having a bathroom so close was really convenient, especially since I was sharing the room with my little guy. A couple of years ago, my Mom and my Nana came to stay with us for a weekend. I mentioned to them that we were looking for a house. My Nana immediately piped up and said, “Try to find a house with a guest bathroom!” I laughed and laughed. Who doesn’t want to share a bathroom with four kids? 😉

In the stage of life with a houseful of kiddos, I don’t have a designated guest room. But, staying here really helped me see how I can make the room where our guests stay more accommodating and comfortable. When you’re traveling, what makes you feel comfortable? Drop me a comment and let me know!

We Bought A House!!

Big news, y’all! We bought a house! Before I dive into the details of how we managed to find a house during a nationwide house shortage, here’s a brief overview:

A friend of ours mentioned to us that a mutual friend was planning to build a house and sell his current  house, which happens to be in one of our fave neighborhoods. We saw the house, made an offer, and closed on it today. The sellers will rent the house from us till late November, which is the projected completion date for their new home. Didja catch all that? 

Here’s how it went down, for those of you, like me, who love the details and a good story. We moved to northwest Arkansas about five years ago. When we moved here, our kids were pretty  young and we’d been homeschooling them for several years. We transitioned to a university model school once we moved here, which meant that our kids would be in school two to three days a week and homeschooled the remaining days. Our house is twenty-ish minutes from our school, which I didn’t think would be a big deal to me. I was used to homeschooling full time and spending the majority of my days at home. But, the drive ended up being a really, really big deal to me. Within a year of making this drive several times a week, and often three to five times a day, I knew that we needed to move closer to school. When we bought our current house, we’d planned on renovating it to make the floorplan to work better for our family. Justin and I  eventually decided to only modify the kitchen, since we knew our days in this house were numbered. After months of praying and talking and trying to make this house and location work, my husband and I decided that we would list our house and start actively looking for a house in Spring of 2020. Right about the time we were ready to get the ball rolling, the lockdowns began. We weren’t comfortable making plans to buy and sell a home during such an uncertain time, so we put our plans on hold indefinitely. 

While we were waiting, I was looking at homes on zillow like an obsessed house stalker. I drove through neighborhoods and approached the owners of homes I liked and gave them my contact information. I prayer-walked circles around our current house asking for God’s direction and provision. I made a list of what we wanted in our next home and prayed through it often. I even had a couple dear friends praying specifically through the same list. We thought we’d found a lot to build on, but the increasing building prices put a halt to that in a hurry. We thought we’d found a house that would work, and we even made an offer on it, but it fell through during negotiations. It seemed like we were in a holding pattern for months and months. I would see a house I loved and it would immediately go off the market. I even joked with our realtor that I was a magnet for unavailable houses.  I waffled between resting in God’s timing and provision and, in my lowest (and most dramatic) moments, feeling like He’d forgotten about us. 

This past April, we were sharing our discouragement about the house situation with our community group when one of our friends mentioned that a mutual friend would eventually have a house to sell. As soon as we got home from community group, I asked Justin to reach out to our mutual friend and ask him about his house. He immediately responded and even sent us a floorplan from when the house was originally built.  Once I saw the floorplan, I knew this house was a good option for us. We looked up an old zillow listing and could see from the old pictures that the house had all the spaces we wanted and a really good layout. I was already very familiar with this neighborhood because it’s located close to school and church and it has so many things I was looking for in a neighborhood…a pool, park, walking trails, and close access to the Razorback greenway, just to name a few. Justin and I had a few days to think about the house before we went to see it. Justin came up with the idea of proposing to the sellers that we would buy the house from them now and they could rent it back from us while their new house was being built. We talked this over with our realtor and she agreed that it was a great idea due to the current low interest rates and the fact that our offer would likely be appealing to the sellers. We set up a time to see the house and we loved it. After walking through the house, we sat on the back porch with the owners (the sweetest people ever, btw) and chatted for about an hour. We pitched our idea to them and made a verbal offer. I was a nervous wreck as I was the one doing most of the talking, and Justin and I hadn’t exactly agreed to make an offer that day, which is just a little tiny detail. Oops? I felt like the time was right, so I went for it! Later on that day, Justin and I talked and he assured me that I was not in trouble for making an offer. I was relieved! I’m still laughing over this. After a few negotiations with the sellers, we set a closing date and the rest is history. 

Our current plan is to list our house later this Summer or early Fall and move into our new house by the end of November. If you know someone who is wanting to move to northwest Arkansas, send them my way and I’ll connect them with our realtor. In the meantime, we’ll spend the summer swimming at our neighborhood pool in our new ‘hood and making design boards for our new space like the true house stalker that I am. I can’t wait to share our new place with all of you once we move in. Out of respect for the sellers, who have been the kindest, most accommodating people, we won’t be showing any interior pictures for now. 

If you’re looking for a house in this crazy market and feeling discouraged, I hope our story gives you a glimmer of hope. We prayed and prayed and prayed for this house over the course of about 3 years. If you’re praying for a house too, reach out to me and I’ll be happy to pray for you, too. God worked out every single detail of this process and we are deeply grateful for His provision and timing. 

Bent Tree Remodel

Hey, hey! Y’all prepare yourselves for an amazing transformation! Before I go into all the deats from this remodel, feast your beady little eyes on this after pic and scroll down for the before.

One of my favorite things about being a designer is the relationship I develop with my clients. I didn’t know this sweet family before showing up for a design consultation and we quickly became friends. They were down to earth and funny. They had updated their kitchen and family room several years prior without the help of a designer. As time went on, they didn’t like the dark look of things and how chopped up the space felt. We opted to unify the flooring between the family room and adjacent living areas with a Shaw engineered hardwood from ProSource in Rogers, Arkansas. It’s worth noting that ProSource offers high end products at extremely reasonable prices and this flooring is a great example. Here’s another before picture to give you an idea of how the space felt.

A well-chosen paint color is a powerful tool. My clients have three teenagers and they liked the durability of wood for the island, so we left that as is. We painted the surrounding cabinets Alabaster by Sherwin Williams. The wall color for the room is Worldly Gray from Sherwin Williams. We kept the existing countertops and replaced the backsplash with an understated hexagonal tile from Daltile, which we also purchased at ProSource.

I love this built in desk. These clients are amazing about cataloguing memories and make photo books of each one of their kiddos. This space provides the perfect place to work on photo books as well as keeping life organized and running smoothly for an active family.

While it’s hard to tell from this picture, the mantle that my clients had before the remodel was warped and sagging on one side. They wanted to replace it and give the fireplace a bit of a facelift. I found an inspiration picture and we hired a craftsman to build a new mantle. Here’s the before shot of the fireplace:

And here’s the fireplace after the remodel. We were able to use the existing stone surround, paint the built ins, replace the mantle and put up that beautiful Samsung frame TV. If you look closely, you can see where my client displays her family photo books. I’ll give you a hint. They are stacked on the third shelf from the top on the left side of the fireplace.

We kept the existing furniture in the family room and added a throw and pillow from Pottery Barn. We took our time looking for just the rug and I found a wool rug, also from Pottery Barn, that my clients are so pleased to have. Wool is one of the most durable fibers, so it’s really great choice for a space that gets a lot of use. The lamps are from Hobby Lobby and my clients made these side tables themselves with plans from anawhite.com. They did a great job and saved a little money.

One thing that I try to make my goal in design is to help my clients find their own personal style. I don’t want every home I design to look like my style. I’m very passionate about helping others discover the look they love and then I try my darndest to help them achieve that look. When we styled the living room, I kept my client’s wall arrangement pretty much the same and just updated a few picture frames. When we finished the job, she sent me this text:

“Seriously, you were so easy to work with. You never made my style not feel like your style…if that makes sense.”

That’s truly one of the highest compliments I can receive as a designer. My goal is to equip homeowners to feel confident in their spaces. She also told me that her teenagers were so excited to show the remodel to their friends. It made my clients happy to see that their kids were proud of their home and pleased with the remodel.

I’ll leave you with this picture of their kitchen in it’s everyday, unstyled glory. We chose this runner from Ruggable and it’s holding up quite well . We searched high and low for just the right desk chair on Facebook marketplace. While we’re all so accustomed to seeing quick before and afters on the interwebs, it’s worth letting you all in on the timeline of this job. From our first meeting to our final meeting to help style the family room, six months had passed. Slow design really is good design. After six months of working together, my clients are in love with their home.

Tuesday Tip: Pantry Organization Step by Step

My hubby and I spent some time decluttering and reorganizing our pantry over the weekend. I love a good before and after, so here are a couple of very rough before photos taken straight from my Instagram stories.

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Step 1: We unloaded each shelf, one or two shelves at a time. I didn’t empty the entire contents of the pantry all in one fell swoop. The goal of this project was to create more peace and organization. I knew that if I unloaded the entire pantry and covered every single space of my kitchen and dining room with the items from the pantry, I’d get overwhelmed. First, I took out all the cookbooks and went through them. I wiped down the cookbook shelves and put the cookbooks back. Next, I took all our paper plates, plastic cups, and basically any disposable product out of the pantry and organized them. I wiped down the shelves where they had been stored and put them back.

Step 2: We went through each group of items that we’d removed from the pantry. We dedicated one area of our kitchen as a space to put things that will be donated and placed unused items there. As we worked, Justin would bag things up from this area and take the bags to the garage to eventually donate. We were snowed in during this project. We would typically put the bags of items to donate directly in the back of my van so that I could donate them as soon as possible. That little trick actually helps me a ton. I really don’t like having random bags in the back of my van, which motivates me to take care of donations quickly.

Step 3: We wiped down the shelves and bins that were holding the items we’d gone through. I honestly didn’t think I’d do this at first. I like to think I’m a fairly clean person and felt that I was maybe a bit above needing to wipe out the shelves of my pantry. Pride comes before a fall…the shelves and bins needed to be cleaned out in a bad way!

Step 4: We put everything back in a way that functions well and looks good. This final step is key! To help your storage space make sense, it’s good to group similar items together. I try to keep canned goods, glass bottles and condiments all on one shelf, but in separate groupings. Storing all of my baking supplies in one space brings great efficiency to my pantry. I love these Sterlite bins for open storage, these Oxo containers for baking supplies and this set of chalk markers and labels to keep it all labeled. If you have some serving pieces that you’d like to see, put them on shelves that you can see when you open the door. I stored my cake plate, a vintage cake carrier, some family heirloom wine glasses and a glass trifle dish on my top shelf so that I can see them whenever the pantry door is open. What I don’t see every time I open the door, are two shelves stacked with not-so-pretty large storage containers that I use often. I like that they’re easily accessible, but they’re not in my direct line of sight. We also keep our microwave on one of the side shelves of our pantry. This is purely a personal preference, but it’s a big priority for me and I’ve had my microwave in the pantry of all our homes. I like being able to use it fairly easily, but I don’t want to lose counter space, or over the oven space to a microwave.

Finally, there are a few things that my husband and I do to help us stay on the path to productivity when taking on a big project like this. First, we really try to start early in the day so that we can finish the project by dinnertime, or even bedtime that night. I don’t know about you, but a cleaning project that takes multiple days is not my cup of tea. Secondly, we each take breaks as we go. Our kiddos were in the kitchen just a chitty-chatting with us during this entire process. We both needed to step away from time to time so that we could have patience with the kids and get back to work with renewed energy.

Another thing that really helps me to stay sane and productive when doing projects at home is to not compare my home to others. My home doesn’t need to look like the cover of a magazine. I do love the look of a perfectly appointed pantry, with every single thing decanted and in matching bougie bottles, but that’s just not my reality. I have four kids who are all learning to cook right now. I often cook three homemade, from scratch meals on the daily. I don’t have the time or energy to stop them and say, “oh honey, please empty that dried pasta into the breakable container that’s labeled in Italian, okay?” Maybe that will be my reality someday. When I’m an empty-nester, you can all come and look at my pantry and ask me how I made it so perfect. I’ll tell you that it’s because the kids moved out and quit needing all our money and emotional energy. And one final tip on how to get a big ole project like this done is to try to laugh and have a good time. I know that sounds so cheesy, but it’s true! There are plenty of stressful moments, just ask our kids, but we’ve found that if we can laugh at and with each other, we have more fun and are more productive. Here’s the final after shot of our pantry clean out. Drop me a comment below and share any tips that help you conquer the big projects in your home!

Monterey Spaghetti the Perfect Pandemic Meatless Meal

Almost 15 years ago, our oldest child was born. I was completely overwhelmed by motherhood and my adorably grumpy baby. My precious friend brought me Monterey Spaghetti and it made my new-Mommy angst disappear for at least fifteen glorious minutes. Fast forward to 2007. My baby was sleeping through the night like a champ and I was back to cooking up a storm. A few friends had been begging me to compile my fave recipes, so I compiled them and wrote my own cheesy little cookbook. I recently pulled out the cookbook to make one of the most simple, comforting meals; Monterey Spaghetti. I wrote this cookbook before I had my errrrr….”real food revolution”, so some of the meals are not exactly the most unprocessed meals ever eaten, but they’re still delish and this recipe is no exception!

The night that I made this dish, I needed to bake it in the toaster oven because I was using my everyday oven for baking bread. I have loved this toaster oven! My in-laws got it for us for Christmas and it’s a game changer. It will hold up to a 9’x13″ dish easily and bakes evenly. It’s fairly lightweight, so it’s easy to move around if you’re like me and don’t want to store it on the countertop. I keep mine on the bottom shelf of my pantry.

Here’s the recipe. Let me know if you try it!

Monterey Spaghetti

  • 4 ounces uncooked spaghetti, cooked and drained
  • 1 can french fried onions, divided (optional, or try these for a less-processed version of the normal french fried onions)
  • 8 ounces sour cream
  • 1 10 ounce package frozen spinach, thawed and drained
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, shredded
  • 1-1/2 cups monterey jack cheese, shredded (you can totes sub mozzarella)
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Combine the cooked spaghetti, half of the french friend onions, sour cream, spinach, cheeses and garlic powder and place in a buttered two quart casserole dish. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes, add the remaining french fried onions as a topping and bake for five more minutes. This is tried and true comfort food, y’all. My kiddos enjoyed it and I hope your fam likes it, too! Serves 4. I doubled the recipe for my family of 6 and we had leftovers.