Category Archives: decorating

Wild for Wildflowers

A bouquet of wildflowers in the bathroom

One of my favorite things about summer is that I can walk around our yard and gather a bouquet of wildflowers. This little bouquet includes a few day lilies, some fern fronds and some other leaves and branches. And even though the upstairs bathroom is in a state of disrepair, having this little container of flowers by the sink helps me forget all about that.

Fountain Grass on Display

DIY Fountain Grass Centerpiece

As I was doing a little yard clean up this weekend, I found myself with a pile of fountain grass. I was about to sweep it up and dump it in the compost pile but then I stopped myself. Instead, I gathered up the grass, tied a string around it and created a simple, autumnal centerpiece on the sun porch. Don’t you just love it when beautiful accidents happen?

Take a Tour of Our City Apartment on Curbed


We spend so much time thinking about and working on This American House that it’s easy to forget how much work we put into our city apartment. Fortunately, little things like a house call on Curbed are there to remind us that that work was not in vain.

We opened up the apartment to Nick Fochtman, a super talented interiors photographer, about a month ago and then played the waiting game until the post went live on Curbed. Nick did an amazing job in making the apartment seem much larger than it actually is. On the day of the photo shoot I left him alone in the apartment to do his work. I took a walk around the neighborhood for about an hour and then returned to find him just finishing up. I had no idea how the apartment would look through his lens. That it looks so incredibly stylish and spacious is quite a delight!


I think the title of the post – How One Couple Rode Out the Recession and Transformed Their Rogers Park Home – perfectly encapsulates the point I was trying to make in my answers to the Q&A. While it has been very tempting over the years to follow the lead of many of our neighbors and let our apartment go into foreclosure, we’re ultimately very happy that we’ve stuck it out. The value of the apartment is still nowhere near what we paid for it in 2007 but we’re still proud to call it home. I’m proud of all the projects I’ve completed that have come together to make the apartment feel comfortable yet handsome. And, most importantly, had we let the apartment go into foreclosure we wouldn’t have been able to get a mortgage for This American House.

One funny thing about this house call is that just one month later the apartment looks totally different. About a week after we had Nick over for the photo shoot I got the itch to redecorate. Such is life with me – our homes are in a constant state of evolution. I’ve rearranged some furniture and started working on a project that is going to transform the mantel into something a little more useful. Stay tuned for more details on those projects soon.

Meanwhile, take a tour of our apartment on Curbed and let us know what you think!

New American Made Shades for the Sun Porch!

American Made Window Shades

I’m finally giving the sun porch a little love. Thanks to a random email from Matt at, I’ve finally been able to take down the temporary IKEA curtains that had been hanging in the sun porch windows for the past year and half! Good riddance fussy old curtains. Meet my new best friend, American-made top down, bottom up shades.

Sometimes things come along exactly when you need them. When we first moved into the house, I hastily purchased white and blue striped curtains from IKEA. It was a stop gap measure, I assured myself. The previous owners had left the windows of the sun porch bare and instead installed an insulated curtain over the beautiful sun porch doors. This, to me, was a travesty. By closing off the doors with thick, white curtains, you’re losing the joy of having a sunny, window filled room visible from the living room.

I’m hesitant to even show you how bad the curtains looked. In fact, when I went into the archives to find a photo of the sun porch with the curtains, I had a hard time finding them. I must have really, really hated them if I couldn’t even take photos of them! Anyway, here are the curtains the weekend that I installed them back in January of 2014.

Ugly IKEA Curtains. Ugh!

Yeah, they just did NOT work in the sun porch. The horizontal lines never quite lined up the way they should have and the overall look was just way too fussy. The only thing I liked about the curtains was that they allowed light to get in while shielding the sun porch from prying eyes.

Not only did the curtains look bad inside the sun porch, they also looked pretty awful outside. The blue stripes – it was all about those damned blue stripes.

IKEA Curtains at This American House

I hated those IKEA curtains from the very beginning. There were maybe five minutes after I installed all the hardware and got the curtains up when I was actually pleased with them. And then I immediately hated them. They were cheap, I reasoned, and they were better than nothing in the meantime. But I couldn’t wait to replace them.


When contacted me to ask if I’d be interested in reviewing their American-made shades, I knew this was my opportunity to finally get back to the sun porch. They offered to send one shade to me for free in order to review it. Once I got the first shade up, I knew I had to go back and order enough to finish off the sun porch.

Window Shades Made in America

I’m happy to report that the shades are easy to install. We have similar cellular shades in the condo so I’m already familiar with installing them. I think that even someone who hasn’t installed cellular shades before would be able to do it pretty easily. It’s really just a matter of installing two pieces of hardware (more for wider sizes) and then snapping the shades into place.


The thing that I like about these shades versus the top down bottom up cellular shades that we installed in the city condo is that these new shades go up and down more easily. Back at the city condo, the shades tend to get uneven and need a lot of finessing to make them look good. These new shades, which are cordless and are raised and lowered by simply pulling the top down or the bottom up, stay nice and level.

I wanted shades that would still allow some light to fill the room. I mean, it is a sun porch after all. It should be filled with sun! The view from the street facing windows in the sun porch is not very nice. This is when the top down shades comes in handy. With the tops lowered we’re able to see the treetops and the sky while still blocking out the uglier parts of the landscape.


Now that the shades are up and the dining table and chairs are in the sun porch, it’s time to enjoy those summer meals in style!


Full disclosure: This American House was supplied free and discounted product from However, all views in this post are our own.

Before & After: The Stenciled Entryway
Throwback Thursday

Before & After: The Stenciled Entryway

We haven’t been making very fast progress at This American House, so I’m digging back into our photo archives and seeing how the city apartment has evolved over the years. First up is my favorite room in the apartment. Which, actually, isn’t a room at all. Even five years after stenciling it, the teeny tiny little entryway still is my favorite space.

Stenciling the Entryway

When we first moved into the apartment I painted everything in cool pastel colors. I don’t know, I guess I was feeling very mellow or something. The entryway got a few coats of pale pink that seemed like a good idea at the time. And then I quickly grew tired of it. So I did a complete 180 and went from pale pink to black and white.


Painting the entryway black was a giant leap of faith. I mean, there’s nothing like taking a space that’s 2 feet by 4 feet and painting it a really dark color. I had a what-have-I-done moment when I stepped back and looked at the black walls before me. Once the stencil started going on, however, I could immediately see that I was doing the right thing. Whereas the black walls made the small space feel dark and claustrophobic, the addition of the white pattern opened it all up and actually makes the space feel bigger.

The Stenciled EntrywayI was able to reuse the existing furniture and accessories in the space. I painted the table and coat rack bright red to allow them to stand out from the patterned walls. (These are the only things that I’ve tired of over the years. I’d like to replace those red accessories with white ones.) I even repurposed the canvas that hangs over the table and hides the electrical box. I applied white fabric over the canvas and then used black paint to apply the stencil, creating a negative effect of what’s on the walls.

Black and White Stenciled Entryway

This little entryway is the first thing that people see when they enter the apartment and it always gets a reaction. Whether it’s a friend dropping by to visit or a delivery driver bringing us food, their eyes usually widen as they look up and down the walls. “That’s really nice wallpaper,” they’ll usually say. “Oh, it’s a stencil actually,” I’ll proudly inform them. “Wow, that must have taken forever,” they’ll reply.

Yes, it did. It was a long, painstaking process that left my arms sore. And it was worth every minute.

Images: This American House