Favorite Buys: Goodies for Cole

I often get asked by my thousands of followers what my favorite buys are for Cole… Just kidding – no one ever asks me. It’s Friday, gloomy out, and I’ve had this list in my phone for months so I thought it’d be fun to share!
When I became a parent, my purchases quickly shifted more towards adorable baby clothes, the best books for his age, or toys I thought he’d love instead of buying myself gifts. My amazon recommendations are the lamest recommendations for a professional 30-something year old woman because they mainly consist of children’s board games or books. I feel like my cart is secretly judging me. :)
Cole just turned three recently which is so hard for me to wrap my head around! He’s at a fun age where he’s developing a sense of humor, plays jokes on us, makes up his own songs and can hold a conversation. Over the past few years we’ve used a lot of products for all various stages of babyhood, but here I’ll share our current favorites. In the beginning I tried to get the pretty wood toys, but later realized that kids are drawn to bright, primary colors for a reason. Consider yourself warned.

 

Ikea DUKTIG Kitchen. Of all the toys we have, this might be my favorite. All of the kids in my family – Cole, 3, my 4.5 year old niece and even my 12 and 15 year old nephews! – play with this kitchen. It has been one of the greatest kid investments because it promotes pretend play, and has provided hours of play so far. It doesn’t hurt that the price is perfect, and it fits in beautifully with my white and gray kitchen.

Melissa and Doug Condiments Set. I bought this after Cole had a huge meltdown one night about him not being able to use our salt and pepper shakers on his food to excessively season his food. Now when we eat dinner, he gets his own set and likes to pretend to season his own meal.

Fisher Price Barista Set. To my point above about me loving wood toys for kids – this was a perfect compromise. It’s pretty and Cole loves making me coffee at all hours of the day. I was so excited when I found this by accident in Target!

Melissa and Doug Take Along Horse Stable. This little toy has gotten SO MUCH use. It’s insane. It was an impulse buy at Home Goods and my horse-obsessed niece has played with it for hours. She loves to carry around the stable, the kids paint the ponies during craft time, the ponies go in the tub, and they play in the sandbox outside. These horses are magic, I tell you.


Retractable baby gate. I did hours and hours and hours of research when we needed baby gates. Ryan ended up finding this retractable one and it’s amazing. It’s not bulky and easily retracts so you don’t always have a huge baby gate in your space. When the baby goes to bed, it’s nice to pretend you are grown-ups living in a grown up space. :)  We’re using gates less and less these days since Cole is getting older, but I love the design of this one!

Luca Glider. One day when Cole and our future kid(s) outgrow this glider, I’ll be so sad. I rarely get emotionally attached to things, but this chair is so comfortable and has had so many happy snuggles in it. Ryan originally thought it was a splurge for a kids bedroom, but now he (maybe) sees the value since we’ve spent hours reading bedtime stories and rocking him to sleep. For me, it’s a spot that reminds me of when I first nursed Cole as a baby and it brings back those cozy and deeply bonded moments alone with him.

4-in-1 Trike. This tricycle, inspired by the original classic metal trike, is such a great design! My only personal gripe is that I didn’t buy it for Cole sooner. We bought it as a gift last year for his birthday, but could have easily started riding in this at one year old- instead of the million other four-wheeled vehicles we have in our garage. The handles let you control the steering, so the baby feels like they’re riding a bike on their own. So smart!

Building Blocks. We have a different set, but these are similar. Our set was originally my nephews (from almost 11 years ago) and still get so much use. Cole loves building with legos, gears, pipes… but these are always a classic.

Kinetic Sand. Similar concept to Playdoh (which we also love), this kinetic sand is so much fun to play with. It’s mesmerizing and a complete stress reducer for Mom’s, too!

Bubble maker. Save your breath and enjoy the Gazillion bubbles that this little machine blows. So fun for the current season!

My favorite bath toy. This boat has two purposes: a boat to play with (duh) and scoops water to rinse his hair. Bath toys tend to clutter the tub or get moldy. This is is the only one you need and is so easy to clean.


The best beach umbrella. When I bought this umbrella, it seems like a splurge because it wasn’t on sale but I’m so happy I bought it. It’s huge and can fit an entire family inside, but also folds down so small. It doesn’t blow away and can be used as a tent or an umbrella. One of my favorite seasonal purchases to keep my fair skinned boy out of the strong sun on the beach.


Piggy bank. I bought this bank, after Cole kept breaking into his other bank that Ryan has when he was a kid. The older fashioned banks either just snapped together, or had a cork that could easily be removed by a nosy toddler. I was paranoid Cole would get into his bank and swallow the coins… even though he never puts things in his mouth. This bank can only be opened using a screw driver, or a coin, to screw the bottom off. I also love how is looks like a real piggy, instead of a stylized one. Super cute!


My new favorite book. Cole’s outgrowing board books and is more interested in stories which I am so excited about. I picked up some new best sellers and I love this book. I wasn’t expecting to laugh out loud when reading the stories of sarcastic/funny crayons.  We’re also really loving the Pete the Cat series!

High Five magazine. I’m not sure who gets more excited when High Five (or their extra Puzzle Buzz) magazine comes in the mail: me or Cole. We immediately snuggle on the couch… both of us eager to find the hidden pictures. So happy I get to share this nostalgic magazine with my boy.

Favorite Buys: For The Home

I am a sucker for gift guides and round ups of “best product” type lists in magazines and blogs. Ryan always says I am the ultimate consumer, and our cardboard recycling pile waiting to be picked up at the end of our driveway would agree. I primarily shop online because either I’m working, or I convince myself that taking a hungry toddler to a store after daycare is the worst idea ever. I am addicted to amazon prime. It makes daily mail deliveries feel like Christmas – even if the only item being delivered that day are a months supply of Ziploc bags. :)

Rather than share a gift guide for a holiday, I thought I’d share what my favorite purchases were over the past 3ish years are. I chose that time frame because that’s when we bought our first house, finally got the hang of entertaining, and our lives changed when we became new parents. We didn’t have a traditional registry when we got married, so some of these are items that I would have registered for when we got married almost six (!!!) years ago. I can’t believe we’ve been married for that long! Below is a list of my favorites, in no particular order…

 

 

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5-piece Colander Set.
  When I first brought this home from the store, Ryan thought I was ridiculous because “how many strainers does one person need?!”. I soon showed him how convenient they were, especially when making dishes like chili – straining beans, pasta/rice, straining the fat from the meat… all at the same time. They’re durable and stack together beautifully in the cabinet. I immediately tossed our three old strainers that were breaking and bulky in our already full cabinets.

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Glass Nesting Bowls. I bought these when we bought our first condo in 2007 and we’ve had them since. I use them for everything: from preparing meals to putting chips in them for parties. I like that they are glass, rather than metal, because they can easily be used when entertaining. Another space saver in our full cabinets!

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Landscape Lighting. As silly as it sounds, a childhood dream of mine was to have a house one day with landscape lighting. I was a nerd destined to be a designer, I suppose. I always thought it was expensive and difficult to install, but I saw this blog post, showed it Ryan, and we both were excited to try it ourselves. To be fair, Ryan did most of the work himself but he said it was easy to install. I’d say the most difficult part of the project was knowing how many lights we’d actually need/want. We were weirdos standing outside at night shining flashlights at our bushes to see how a light would look… If our neighbors saw us, I’m sure they thought we were nuts! We did this project this past summer and I love driving into the driveway at night because it makes our house feel so elegant and inviting – for only about $300!

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Shower Curtain Rings. These rings have a hook on each side so the liner and shower curtain are separate so when you have to take the liner or curtain off to wash it, you only need to take one off at a time. Genius! 
71832945499050pGrill pan. Especially when we’re trying to eat healthy, I love using a grill pan. They don’t sell the version we have, but this one is similar and nicer. :)

 

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King Size Bed. We bought this bed when I found out I was pregnant and it was a total game changer. At that point, we needed a new bed and mattress anyway. I knew I was about to become a huge, cranky pregnant woman, and Ryan and I are both tall. I love having a king size bed to sprawl out… especially since both cats choose to sleep on me. We bought it in a chenille-like fabric which has withstood two scratch happy cats. This is one of my all-time favorite buys.

 

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Baking Dish. I have this baking dish in two sizes and love it! It’s another item that can go from oven-to-table because of it’s simple design and neutral color. I also love that it doesn’t stain like other baking dishes I’ve owned.

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Meyer Lemon Candle. This is my new go-to candle. I love the crisp citrus scent – it’s so delicious I want to drink it! I have one on my nightstand in my bedroom and it’s so fragrant and fresh even when it’s not lit.

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Large modern weave baskets. I have two of these simple baskets tucked into corners of our living room for additional toy storage, and for blankets to snuggle up with.

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Bench. The stock photo for this bench doesn’t do it justice. We have this in our living room which was originally used for blanket storage, but has now turned into a “lego bench” where Cole stores all of his legos. I’m happy to have pretty storage for toys since they seem to have taken over my house. The fabric is a durable and beautiful velvet, and looks way more elegant in person than it does online!

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Outdoor candles. I am obsessed with these candles. They really do flicker like real candles! They’re a bit of a splurge for an outdoor item, but the quality is so great that I convinced myself they were worth it for hanging out outside. I also got a few for our screen porch, since the cats and Cole are often in there during the warmer months. Now I have the cozy feel of lit candles without the worry of burned tails or baby hands.

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Sponges. A random thing to write about, right? An even more random thing to love… but it’s true! I love these sponges. The size and texture is different from any store bought which makes clean up way easier. Plus, it’s made of natural fibers and is anti-microbial. We never have that nasty sponge smell! Insert dancing-lady-emoji here!

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Stainless teapot. When our last tea pot fell apart (literally), I knew it was time to upgrade to something heavier and more substantial, even though that means more money. I like to keep a tea pot out on the stove all the time, so I wanted something functional (obviously) but that was also pretty and classic since you’ll always be seeing it. This one fit the bill! They used to sell it at Williams Sonoma, but I bought mine on Amazon because I’m addicted to Prime.
Side note: Because I keep mine out on the back burner all the time, it gets dirty from cooking. I did some research and bought this cleaner and it keeps it looking new and shiny.

 

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Wine Out. If you drink red wine, or have friends who drink red wine – BUY THIS! It’s like magic, seriously! I have the bigger bottle in my cabinet for larger spills and I’ve never had a stain. Ryan teases me that I have the “wino-sized” bottled. :)

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Takeout menu organizer. We are lucky and have a lot of different takeout options where we live. We used to have menus stuffed into a binder until I came across this organizer. My brother-in-law always makes fun of me, but I know he secretly loves how easy it is to find the menu for our favorite pizza place when he’s at our house.

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Modern litter box. Creepy cat in the photo aside, this litter box is beautiful. A sentence I never thought I’d type. We have the box open in our newly finished basement, so it’s pretty visable. I wanted something small and discreet and this one is perfect! When we were showing family the basement once it was done, someone complimented the box but didn’t even realize it was a litter box! I love that the opening is on the top, too, so they track less litter through the house.

 

How is that for the most random list of “favorite” items?! :) Thanks for reading.

Accountability

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Happy New Year! In the past, I haven’t paid too much attention to a new year starting, but this year something feels different. I feel hopeful, positive and excited. The past three years have been challenging, to say to least – my father being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s (something I’ve kept private), becoming a mother, buying a house, renovating our house, and my father passing away less than two years after my sister passed away – all while my business was growing at rapid speed. I’ve had extreme highs and extreme lows during this time and it took me 2 years to understand, acknowledge and appreciate the lessons I’ve learned during this time. I’ve had an internal fight about sharing too much of my personal life on this blog… which is probably why you notice a huge gap between the most recent posts. Why am I hesitating to share that I’ve lost a family member? Will my clients think I’m weak? Will they think I’m incapable to handle their large projects? If I blog too much, will clients think I’m not spending enough time working on their projects?   Taking time off between the holidays helped me clear my head and reminded me it’s quite the opposite – my grief shifted my entire life and made me stronger. It made me think differently and has strengthened my business because I’m more focused than I ever was.  On top of that, I am entering the new year with a newly renovated home office, new organized file system, and an accountant to help me with my taxes and book keeping. These were all huge goals for 2016 and I feel so good to have accomplished this.

Last year I wrote out a list of yearly goals and put it up on a pinup board so I’d have to see it every day. This year I’m sharing it here so I can be held accountable. :)

PERSONAL
Be mindful. Taking time off this past week made me realize how calm I am when I’m not on my phone and am living in the moment. I’m learning to meditate which has been really helpful, but also challenging for someone like me, who is constantly planning or thinking about what will happen next. I’ve been bringing my mind back to what’s happening in the moment: the way my cat feels snuggling me or the way their loud purr sounds, the way Cole’s small, soft hand reaches for mine to walk down the stairs, or listening to Ryan make Cole laugh. Little things add up to big things that change our lives, and I want to be mindful to experience them.

Have more family adventures.  We recently went to the Liberty Science Center and were there for 5 hours. Time flew by because we were having so much fun not having anywhere else to be. This past year, we spent a lot of our weekends doing home renovation projects. Looking back, we realize how much time it took from us focusing on family and exploring. Cole is almost three, so he’s becoming a typical little boy looking for adventure. I want to spend more time providing experiences, rather than holing up at home on a house project that really doesn’t matter in the long run.

Be more organized with meal planning. This is a typical new years resolution, but it goes hand in hand with us wanting to eat healthier. Our diets are pretty horrible right now, and Cole is THE pickiest toddler. I want to have a consistent schedule to go food shopping so I can prepare healthier meals to nourish my family.

Date nights. This one is pretty self explanitory. :) We need to focus more on our marriage because life has shifted so much since we’ve had Cole. We need to spend more time together and talk about things other than potty training or stresses of our jobs.

Care for my body. In addition to eating cleaner, I need to listen to my body and care for it. Seeing my dad’s health decline so quickly scared me and reminded me that I have control over my own health. I’m not saying that his Alzheimer’s was a result of his decisions, but I need to do what I can to take care of myself and pay attention to what I eat, what products I use, and what medicines I take.

Practice yoga. I’d love to be considered a yogi but right now I’m just an unsteady woman pretending I’m good, in hopes that I’m fooling everyone in the classes I take. :) I love my local studio and the community it provides and I intend to continue going more frequently for my body and mind.

Learn a new skill. Last year I took a pottery class and loved learning something new. This year I want to learn to knit, in addition to becoming a yogi. (See above. :)

PROFESSIONAL
Blog more. I’ve struggled a lot with what to post/share because I enjoy writing about personal things happening in my life. I know this business is my “brand”, but aren’t I my brand, too? I have a lot of ideas saved in my “drafts” folder but haven’t posted because I’ve been so busy with life and work. I also hesitate to write during a work day because I often feel guilty for writing instead of  doing my “normal” work. For example, today I had 564 emails when I woke up and now I still have 36. And I feel guilty because should I be answering those emails instead of blogging… Even though blogging is part of my work and my business, too. I want to rid my like of guilt, too. Add that to the list! :) I read this book recently and loved it and found it so relatable. So many creatives deal with similar struggles because our days aren’t normal, and each day is different, but yet somehow I still sometimes feel guilty for not always being behind a computer.

Less clients, but bigger projects. I love my clients, and am beyond grateful for them. I’ve found that having less clients and bigger projects allows me to get to know my clients better and helps me focus my attention to their specific needs. Having less clients, and more time to spend with each client individually also helps them get to know me and increases their trust in my design skills faster which moves the project along faster. I’ve learned that having a lot of clients with small projects requires more energy and I find myself spread to thin.

Go on artist dates. I read this book last year, and although I didn’t love it, I took away her “artist dates” concept. She suggests going on “dates” once a week by yourself to reflect and gain inspiration. I’d like to step away from the computer more – go to a museum, check out design showrooms leisurely, or go to a networking event – to go out and feel inspired. Working for myself, by myself gets lonely and I need to nourish my creativity. Sometimes you just need to step away from paperwork.

Go to market. I’ve never gone High Point Market (the biggest furniture market), and I hear mixed reviews from designer friends, but I’d like to experience it. This also ties in with the goal above – stepping away from the computer and reaching out to new vendors to get inspiration.
I’m really looking forward to 2017 and feel like it’s going to be a great year. :)

Photo via.

Family Photos

Hi! In the past two years a lot has changed for me, and this year for my birthday all I wanted was to have family photos taken in our local park. We had pictures taken when I was pregnant, and when Cole was first born, but clearly he’s changed quite a bit since he’s been a newborn! We joke that Erin has become our life photographer because I originally met her when she was a second shooter at our wedding. We look like such babies in those pictures, but I digress…

In the past two years I learned a lot about my marriage, my role as a mother, and really, truly getting to know myself. I see my life through new eyes and with a lighter heart and I wanted these photos to capture my family: My husband who has taught me what true unconditional love and patience is, and my sweet little boy who can make my eyes tear from simply reaching to hold my hand, grabbing my face for a slobbery kiss, or saying “waterlemon” instead of “watermelon”.

Life can be strange, challenging, difficult, and beautiful, emotional and amazing. Through it all, I’m so ridiculously grateful to have these two by my side.

 

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Hudson, NY

Hudson, NY

This October Ryan and I were able to sneak away for a weekend getaway while my amazing sister-in-law stayed with Cole. I’ve been meaning to post pictures for way too long, but it’s better late than never, right? What’s the point in taking pictures if you can’t over-instagram or blog about it?! Kidding. (Or am I?)

 

I’ve been wanting to explore Hudson, NY for years now. We love New Hope and we’ve heard from friends that it has a similar vibe and they were right. Ryan isn’t a fan of B&B’s so I was so excited to find The Barlow, a fancy schmancy boutique hotel with modern interiors. Apparently there are only two hotels in the area, and this is one of them. We tried making reservations years ago at another place and learned that apparently you need to make reservations six months-a year in advance. After the year we had, we needed a mini-vacation (and a real vacation!) so I booked it in just enough time.

 

We arrived on a Friday evening and since everything closes early, we just walked around and did some window shopping, ate our weight in mexican food and drank the best margaritas I’ve ever had. It was such a luxury to do just be us… and do what we wanted when we wanted. I wish I could say we even had the luxury to sleep in but my husband has the internal clock of a toddler and can’t spend his time being unproductive. (He’s a freak, but it works to my advantage when Cole wakes up early on weekends. :)

 

We spend our Saturday shopping for furniture, art and accessories that, in Hudson, are completely out of our price range. Everything in town seemed to be refereed to as “artisinal” including items like cheese, candles, wine and coffee. So Ryan would say the word “artisinal” for everything even when we got home… asking for artisinal bacon or artisinal pancakes for breakfast. And then there was this one store where my husband developed a man crush on a furniture shop owner. Ryan loved every piece in the store and said that this man was living his dream life… buying old furniture, refinishing it and selling it for a huge profit. I was so amused by the “crush” that I forgot to take pictures of any pieces. We walked by the next day and it was closed and he looked longingly into the store and said he wished he asked him what he used to clean his wood. I kid you not. We both couldn’t stop laughing. (Disclaimer: Ryan, my straight husband, is really good at refinishing furniture and was genuinely interested in what materials this mystical man used.) :) Thinking of this still makes me laugh as I type this. You’re one of a kind, Mr. Dreissig.

 

The rest of this post is very picture heavy, but I was so inspired and couldn’t stop taking pictures. I love the fall: the colors, the scarves, the crisp air. It’s hard to believe it’s December!

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IMG_0229One night we headed over to Chatham, NY and did some beer tasting at Chatham Brewing Company.

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We really lucked out and they were having a chili tasting festival on the Hudson. It was so interesting to see how each was different. Some added pumpkin and some had a sweet chili with apples. Our fave was from American Glory made of pulled pork and was so amazing. I asked the owner, dressed in a leather vest and chaps, for the recipe and he laughed at me.


Just a beautiful home. I love Ivy growing up a brick facade. I’m also super creepy taking pictures of people homes. ;)

We both really enjoyed the John Davis Gallery. This art by Daisy Craddock was so beautiful. Each piece was of landscaped created with acrylic and oil pastels on paper. I wish they weren’t sold (or so expensive) because I loved the colors and texture. I am always drawn to art with trees for some reason.

   

The same gallery also had this back space where a building (an warehouse I think?) houses sculptures and more art. It was a unique way to experience art for sure.

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Even the wine shops were beautiful!


This was my favorite showroom and now it’s driving me nuts because I can’t remember the name. I think it was called Hudson Home but I can’t find a website. I loved their store front, florals, wood floor color, everything.

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Another gallery/store I can’t remember the name of but aren’t these colors beautiful? They had beautiful accessories and fun hats that didn’t fit on my gigantic head. :)

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Personal Basement Project: The Plan and Before Pics

Now that it’s cooling off, we’re focusing our attention on inside projects. And by we, I mean I’ve been obsessively thinking about finishing the basement so I can have a bigger office and a non-creepy laundry room! Ryan talks about it here and there, but he doesn’t understand how happy this project will make me. When looking for houses, a basement with high ceilings that didn’t get water was a priority for us because we knew eventually I’d need a bigger office. The previous owner installed french drains right before we closed (woo-hoo!) and we’ve lived here a year and thankfully haven’t gotten any water. We wanted to live here a bit, during a few big storms to test the system out.

We live in a center hall colonial, so our basement is broken up into 3 rooms: the laundry room/utility room, the main space, and a small storage room. Here’s the plan:

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My Office:
This space is pretty big and has pretty high ceilings for a basement. We’re going to remove the fluorescent lighting and install recessed lighting, and we’ll have to have a minor soffit around the perimeter for pipes. It’s an old house and we don’t want to mess with the plumbing. We have baseboard heat down there too which is a bonus!

I want to have a long desk along the back wall, with pin boards above. I can use this to create fabric schemes, instead of having inspiring fabrics get lost in the shuffle. I’m working on a desk design now, but it will be simple: lateral file storage below and shelving on each far side.
I need a huge table to lay out papers, especially for presentations. I’m a very visual person so I need to have things laid out to ensure everything stays organized and completed on time.

DSC_2143This picture is looking towards “closed sample storage” on the plan.

IMG_3895This picture is looking towards the laundry room entrance.

IMG_3894This picture was from when we first moved in so it is not as clean. The fancy bar from the previous owners has since been removed and replaced with several boxes of samples for projects. This view is looking towards my soon-to-be desk. We’re hoping to frame and close in the crawlspace access since we don’t need it.

 

The creepy, dungeon-like laundry room:
I hate this room so much. The layout doesn’t make sense, most of the lights don’t work, and the slop sink was broken. We removed that last month finally and it was extremely heavy to haul up the stairs. (Thankfully I didn’t have to do it. :) I’ve always dreamed of having a bright, clean laundry room that was organized and a happy place to do chores. This room will probably be phase 2 of the basement project, but I wanted to have the plans in place.

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Looking towards the laundry area. Boo.

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Utility area when we first moved in. The boiler was a BEAST. This picture doesn’t do it justice because it was about as tall as I am and so heavy. It took a year to finally get a guy who was willing to remove it. Thankfully, our basement now looks like this below:

IMG_1432Ryan works for an HVAC supplier, so we got this fancy equipment for an awesome price. I don’t know what any of it does, but every man that comes into our basement is impressed by it. Wait, that sounds weird… it’s not like I have lots of men hang out in my creepy basement. Anyway… How bout that fancy interior designer cat litter box?! haha.

IMG_1431This is area will hopefully eventually be our laundry area. We have plumbing on that side and it’s room enough to have a large hanging bar for drying clothes. I hardly dry anything so I’d love to have a space to hang clothes.

I’ll do a separate post with the inspiration images and furniture I hope to use since this post is getting wordy and my son is waking up from his nap… gotta’ love cold season and sick days…

WE WOULD LOVE TO HEAR ABOUT YOUR DESIGN PROJECT!