A New Journey: Our New House!

It’s been quiet on the blog for several months now. Life got very busy, and craft and decor projects halted as we started what turned out to be a very emotional six-month search for a new house. We’re scheduled to close in less than three weeks, so it’s time to spill the beans and start sharing my ideas for making this house our home!

Why in the world did it take six months to find a house?

  1. We are picky. This will be our forever home and it had to meet a long list of criteria.
  2. We want a prime location. Our target town is highly desirable for its excellent school system, reasonable tax rate (relative to nearby towns), proximity to Boston, and numerous train stops for commuters. This means that prices are incredibly high and loads of people want to live there.
  3. There’s lack of inventory and steep competition. Even at the height of the spring real estate market there were very few homes listed for less than $1M. Yes, that’s right. Finding a 4 bedroom, 2.5 bathroom house with a two-car garage and air conditioning for less than $1,000,000 was ridiculously hard.
  4. We had six offers declined. Even the house we ultimately got! Some of our offers were tens of thousands of dollars over asking and we didn’t even come close to winning. One house we looked at, but decided not to make an offer on, sold for $200,000 over asking. Insane.

garrison colonial exterior with red shutters
So this is our new, very humble abode. It could easily be an episode of “Property Brothers”. I can see the preview now…

Young family searching for their forever home can’t afford their dream house in their ideal neighborhood. After many months of searching and six failed offers, the family settles for a fixer-upper in a fantastic location. With champagne taste and a beer budget, can they complete their renovations on time without breaking the bank?

Where, oh where, are Drew and Jonathan Scott when I need them?

new house backyard_journeychic
When I first saw the listing, I immediately thought “This is the house!” based on the one lonely available picture. After all, it’s a little over 2,000 square feet, has 4 bedrooms all on the second floor, 2.5 bathrooms, a two-car garage, central air conditioning, a partially finished basement and even a screened-in porch. More importantly, it’s in a nice residential neighborhood in our target town, and walking distance to the train to Boston (very important for my husband’s commute), the elementary school, a nice playground, a dry cleaner and Dunkin’ Donuts. All of the essentials.

Yet when we went to the open house, we were incredibly unimpressed. The house was built in the mid 1960′s and the same family has owned it for the past 40 years. While they’ve maintained it quite well, nothing has been updated since an addition was put on in the mid 1990′s. As we walked around the small rooms with their low ceilings and lack of lighting, the choppy layout, and sloping backyard we could not imagine our little family living there. Coming from a home built in 2004 with huge windows, high ceilings, and a granite-filled kitchen, we felt like this little colonial was not a good fit.

Throughout the following week the house kept popping into my mind. There had to be a way to work for us. It was perfect on paper, but how could we make it perfect for us? I talked my husband into dragging the kids to another open house. We brought an architect with us, and the next day he and our agent went back with a builder. We made a low-ball offer and ended up in a bidding war with another couple. We lost.

I was devastated. Mentally decorating and getting attached to six houses, only to lose out in bidding war after bidding war, took a huge toll on me. It was all I could do to keep from losing it in front of the kids when I got the call that our offer hadn’t won.

Then a few days later, our agent called with interesting news: the other party had backed out, and if we wanted the house we could have it! So we jumped on it, and now we find ourselves leaving city life in Boston for a much quieter, family-friendly suburb and a house that needs work in every single room.

I hope you’ll join me as I chronicle our renovation and share my design ideas and projects along the way!



Unicorns for the Young at Heart

Raise your hand if you were ever a Sweet Valley Twins fan. I’ll pretend to see a few of you. Raise your hand if you started your very own Unicorn Club in fifth grade with your closest friends. Oh, that was just me? Well, no matter. If you are female, odds are at some point in your life you were obsessed with unicorns. I’ve been in a creative funk lately and for some bizarre reason an image of a unicorn popped into my head and I decided to run with it for a post.

You may only associate unicorns with weird fantasy art or little girls’ toys, but today I’m sharing some grown-up and stylish versions of the mythical beast that you’ll want to snatch up for yourself or a chic little lady in your life.

stylish unicorn accessories

Top Row: gold unicorn head, print blouse, necklace, ring
Middle Row: ring holder, pillow, cardboard unicorn head
Bottom Row: salt & pepper shakers, watercolor print, wall hook

Lest you think that unicorns are imaginary creatures, check out this beautiful room in France’s Chateau de la Goujeonnerie adorned with unicorn taxidermy. Too bad for the hunter, though – he’ll now live a miserable half-life for killing them.

unicorn heads in French castle

Image: World of Interiors via Apartment Therapy

Points to those who appreciate the Lord Voldemort reference. Now you know how dorky I really am. Unless you know me IRL and in that case, this is no surprise. :)

4 Tips for Organizing Toys with Evernote

If you have small children you know how quickly toys accumulate. Somehow a tiny baby who starts out with a handful of rattles and a play mat grows into a toy-crazed preschooler with enough Thomas trains to start his own eBay shop. When I wrote about our toy conundrum way back in October, to say I felt overwhelmed by the amount of toys in our living room would be an understatement. Without a dedicated playroom in our home, the living room is a catchall space and I am starting to lose my mind. At the end of a busy day at work and once the kids are in bed, I don’t want to sit on my couch and be surrounded by toys; I crave a more peaceful environment.

To kick-start my organizing efforts, I formed a toy organization game-plan using Evernote. No, this is not a sponsored post. My director at work, a woman for whom I have a great amount of respect, turned me on to Evernote a while back and it’s such a handy way to keep track of all kinds of ideas and lists for both work and home. So why not toy organization?

Organize Toys with Evernote

Divide the note into toy zones

Some of you (hi, Mom!) prefer handwritten checklists and that’s totally cool. But if you are like me and spend 90% of your day in front of a computer, create a new note in Evernote and write down the zones you want the toys to occupy. For me, that’s the cupboard in our built-in bookcase, the TV stand/media cabinet, toy corner (which will have a shelving unit), and the kid’s bedrooms. I focused on which zones I would keep and not the ones that are going away.

Be specific about what toys will go in each bin or basket so that you can determine what will and will not fit in advance, and also create graphic labels.

Use check boxes to stay on target

Check boxes are a great little tool to remind you of what you’ve already accomplished as well as what’s left to do. Evernote’s little check box feature is in the toolbar at the top of the note:

evernote toolbar snip

Use the check boxes to keep track of what you what to remove from each zone, what needs to be done to prepare it, what will be put back in the space, and what must be purchased.

Note that I started my Evernote list after we purged damaged books as well as unloved or outgrown toys from the space. If you haven’t completed that step, you should start there. Since we already purged, in addition to noting what I plan to put back in the space I added tasks like selling the changing table (yes, we had a changing table in the living room), throwing away a broken lamp, and adding a pretty rug to make the space more inviting and comfortable.

Link up products and inspiring images

It’s easy to keep track of what you want to buy by creating a hyperlink in Evernote. Simply highlight your text, right click, and select “Hyperlink -> Add”:

creating links in Evernote

You can use the same method to link up inspiring images, or use the paperclip icon (seen in the toolbar image above) to attach a file to the note.

Take action

A checklist is only good if you actually check things off the list and truly, that’s the hardest part. You can see that we’re slowly making progress. In fact, the media cabinet is almost done – I just need to label the new DVD boxes and photograph them so I can share the project with you. We purged a lot of toys, sold the changing table this weekend, got rid of a broken lamp in the toy corner, laid down a gorgeous rug that’s been in storage under our bed, and bought trimmings to update the canvas bins that were previously used in the changing table. Checking things off in Evernote helps me to stay on task and reminds me that I have indeed made progress.

Are you a fan of Evernote? Are you also tackling toy organization this year? I’d love to hear your ideas!