Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Built-Ins: The Biggest (Toughest) Puzzle You'll Ever Piece Together

After the pillows set my world on fire, I spent many a night staring down the built-ins in our den wondering just what in the world I was going to do about them. You see, I suffer from this strange affliction when it comes to decorating and thus have a love/hate relationship with any type of shelf/surface/nook.

Don't you like how I used this dark picture for dramatic effect? (It has nothing to do with the fact that I didn't change my camera settings and also only took one before pic. Oops.)

On the one hand I LOVE figuring out the perfect combination of decor items; when a frame is turned just so and the balance is right and I can step back and feel that *click* of recognition that I've nailed it. LOVE.

Seeing Red....Literally. Its time to say "bye-bye" to the darker hues of 2007.

On the other hand, the interim is a hair-pulling, head-banging-against-the-wall frustrating dance of twisting, placing, removing, replacing, switching out, switching back, stacking, unstacking, shuffleshuffleshuffle of items. I literally stayed up a few nights well past my bedtime staring at these shelves. I wanted desperately to work with what I already had, and that made this challenge that much harder for me.

I started by ridding the shelf of anything that didn't go with the new color scheme and feel of the room (unless it was something I was planning to re-purpose with spray paint so that I could re-use it). Then I started shuffling. And tweaking. And shuffling some more. I took pictures and emailed them to my trusty gurus (Nat & Kelly, holla!) with desperate subject lines like "WHAT'S MISSING?!" or "WHY ISN'T THIS RIGHT?" but mostly just, "HALP!"

Finally, FINALLY we found the right balance. We shopped this house like nobody's business and came up with what has become on of my most favorite places in my home. It is the perfect blend of old and new, of new and re-purposed; and it epitomizes our family in a subtle way that I just love. While in the middle of this project, I searched the internet high and low for pictures of other people's built-ins for inspiration on what exactly one would use to fill shelves without making them fill heavy, dark, or cluttered. I thought it might be helpful to share what I ended up with here, in case someone else is stuck in the same predicament!

In the end, I think we ended up with a space that represents us and also makes the room feel a little bit lighter.

A few favorite pieces:

The glass jar of wine corks that we add to each weekend (and some weeknights!):

This "jar" was actually part of a more elaborate candle holder we got as a wedding gift 3 years ago. I just took it apart and voila!

The worn and tattered copy of Gone With the Wind that belonged to my husband's grandmother (no Southern home is complete without a copy of GWTW):

The juxtaposition of these two photos (placed beside a blue vase from Ikea): our first kiss as husband and wife (bliss) and the look of pure joy on our toddler's face as she swings high (also bliss).

A run-of-the-mill mason jar transformed with a little glass paint. (Yes, we MADE our own blue Mason jars! Hopefully posting a tutorial soon!):

A few other pieces of note:

I used spray paint to re-purpose a few pieces I already had so that they would work in this new space (and so I wouldn't have to spend any moo-lah!). The red vase, the two red crosses (both purchased years ago at Kirkland's) got a new life with coats of glossy white and avacado green.

The white and black metal sign (from Hobby Lobby awhile back, seen below with the newly painted green cross) got a coat of chalkboard paint on its back side, so I now have the option of using either side!

We shopped this house like crazy and found a few pieces that were so-so in other places, but became the perfect finishing touches for our den:

The white cup (sitting on a white flower dish I got on clearance at Pier 1 a few weeks ago) is actually one of the coffee cups that came with the place settings we registered for when we got married. We do not use these on a regular basis (if ever) so this one found a new home on the shelf.

I am embarrassed at the amount of Nicholas Sparks books that I own. But they are some of the prettiest uncovered volumes we have so my secret love for sappy love stories is not so secret anymore.

 I picked up those 3 white floral dishes at Pier 1 on a whim a few weeks back, because I loved the shape and they were super cheap on clearance. They sat in a cabinet for awhile but really came in handy during this re-do! In addition to becoming the saucer-to-my-re-purposed-cup, they now also nestle a white teapot I picked up at TJ Maxx ($4!) and this sweet gray candle from Ikea.

This glass jar was a leftover from our 2008 wedding's candy buffet. We dug it out of my basement cabinets, dusted it off, and filled it with some homemade jute decor balls and these AWESOME split pea decor balls that we made using a recent tutorial from Allison over at House of Hepworth's.

I am LOVING the pop of green from the split peas. Perfect!

Twine-tied books make a simple statement (an idea I stole out of Pottery Barn)  and leftover fabric from my pillows made the perfect covering for a gift box I had leftover from Christmas and worked to tie-in to the new colors.

This re-do taught me a lot of lessons about making a space feel fresh and new without buying all new items to fill it. It also re-affirmed what I've been hearing from all the crafty-decor greats out in blogland. Buy things you love as you see them, because you love them. They will find a home eventually. Do NOT buy things just because you need to fill a space. Patience really does pay off in the long run.

Want to know how much I spent on this? $5.88. For serious. Cheapest. Re-do. Ever. The only things I had to buy were the teapot and the split peas. Everything else had been previously purchased and placed away in a cabinet or in another room of the house just waiting for its perfect spot.

Above all I'm learning how to "live with it". These shelves are a constant work in progress. They may never be finished or "complete" (a thought that gives the type-A crazy in me hives to think about). I would still like to try covering the backs of the shelves with fabric or paper to make them feel even brighter. And I'm sure that a future trip to TJ Maxx or Home Goods will bear a treasure that is just right for this space as well. But I'm learning to love the evolution of it all-- how simple changes can make a room feel fresh over an over again. And the more I think about it, them more I know, yeah, I can live with that. :)


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