Before and After: Wood floors

I thought it would never happen.

But it did!

Eight years after moving in, we finally got wood floors on the main floor.

Earlier this year, as we were looking at ways to spruce up the living room and kitchen, it felt like anything we did would be like putting lipstick on a pig if we didn’t touch the floors. So we did the floors.

To say they knew me in the flooring store is an understatement. But it’s a big decision and if you end up with something you don’t like, you’re kind of stuck with it.

Thank goodness, we like them. A lot.

Here’s the reveal!




The wood has to acclimate in your house (not in your garage or basement) for at least a week.




I wanted mixed-width, a matte finish, lots of variation in the color, and lots of imperfections. I’m really happy with it, and with the job the contractor did.

Next, I’d love to paint the kitchen island and cupboards, change the countertops, install a gas range and double ovens, paint the house exterior, replace the tile in the laundry room, do a nice patio in the backyard, finish the basement, do the master bath, repaint all the walls in the house, especially the kids’ rooms and bathrooms, repaint the half-bath downstairs… and oh yeah, replace the hideous standard-issue chandelier in the foyer.

See what HGTV is doing to us as a people??



Before and After: TV move


Today we moved the TV above the fireplace to make room for some furniture coming later this spring. I didn’t think I’d like it — too much neck-craning and potential for forehead wrinkles. But I really like it. It was too big for the media cabinet it had been sitting on, in retrospect. Now I just have to figure out what to do with the big open wall left behind. And I might buy some retinol, just in case.


Hi Giada! Don’t worry, Pioneer Woman: I’ll still watch you too.


Before and After: Kitchen pendants 


We’ve had these kitchen pendants since the day we moved in 7+ years ago. Definitely something the builder picked out. For some reason I always assumed it would be expensive and a big pain in the ass to change them out.

Today, we finally upgraded to these rustic pendants from Pottery Barn. Dan of All Trades installed them for a small fee. To me, they make a huge diff.


Now if only we could change out the countertops, cabinets, sink and flattop stove.

As my Uncle Jerry would say with no small trace of sadness in his voice: Another time…

Before and After: Dishwasher 

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Our slightly more than 1 year old (just six months out of warranty) Samsung dishwasher door broke a few weeks ago. Barrak had to jam it closed with a whiffle-ball bat against a chair any time we needed to run it. Now after many frustrating phone calls to Samsung, it’s finally fixed! That qualifies as a home reno, no? And while not as much fun as new bedding, it’s still a wonderful thing to have a working dishwasher again.

Before and After: Bedding


We’ve had this Pottery Barn quilt on our bed on and off for 8 years. We bought it as a splurge when we put our Clintonville house up for sale in 2008, to “stage” the bedroom. I love the happy colors and whimsical pattern, and that the quilt is reversible (the other side is a groovy ’70s floral). It’s become really soft over the years, too. So soft in fact that it’s ripped in several places. So, it was time for new bedding.

To me, an all-white bed is the standard in a chic bedroom. In 1997, when I was living in L.A., my chicest (and most blunt) friend Jordana stopped by my one-room apartment to give me decor advice. The first thing she advised was to replace my shabby chic floral duvet cover with a simple all-white one (she also strongly advised against the fuzzy toilet lid cover and matching toilet-hugging floor mat that I thought created a finished look in the bathroom).

Her words still loom large in my mind. Nearly 20 years later, it’s still a chic look — although they’re showing it with striped, brightly colored bohemian pillows and $600 Moroccan wedding blankets (see Amber Interior Design for examples).

With two young kids and a bulldog, the all-white look just didn’t seem practical for us.  How about light gray instead? First I tried a gray Belgian linen duvet cover from Pottery Barn with some brightly colored pillows from West Elm to make it pop. But, it didn’t really pop. So it all went back.

Next, I tried the Malibu patchwork quilt from Pottery Barn, thinking it would give me a southern California look. I guess I was basing that on the name because once I got it on the bed, it was more like the cot coverings you’d see at Camp IWannaGlassaWaWa.

So finally, I landed on this.


I’m so happy with it. It looks and feels super-soft and luxurious. And Barrak likes it too. He isn’t one of those HGTV husbands who lets his wife make all the design decisions. He definitely has opinions and tastes and actually has a great eye for design, color and balance.

My favorite elements are the white quilt and Moroccan pillow. The lady at Pottery Barn didn’t think the Moroccan pillow matched the rest but it was an important checkbox for me — a nod to the $600 Moroccan wedding blankets they’re showing in hip southern Cal abodes.

The key is to layer patterns and textures, and mix and match your pillows, which takes a pretty penny. To get that big puffy look in the Pottery Barn floor sets, they actually stuff TWO duvets in their duvet covers!

Except for the duvet itself (just one), which is from Bed, Bath and Beyond, I got this bedding from Pottery Barn using a 15% off code.

I think it would even better if we had a headboard but that’s for another time.

Stay tuned for more home improvement makeovers!