Renee’s Living Room Redo: Part 1

Miss Renee is not only a very good friend of ours, but she’s also the reason why Yellow Brick Home exists.  One night over a few glasses of wine, she declared that we absolutely positively should share our home ideas with the world.  “You should start a blog,” she said. It wasn’t until she said this again a few days later, and then again in a week, that I started to seriously consider it.  A few months later, YBH was born, and now our little virtual thoughts are like our seventh child (after the pup, two felines, and three fish.  Of course).  And you know, I couldn’t be happier to share our adventures – and misadventures, for that matter.

With that said, it seems only natural that Renee turned to us for ideas on revamping her own home, one room at a time.  As our first official client, we were absolutely flattered, not to mention thrilled, eager, over-the-moon, and yes, even a little scared.  But her calm demeanor soothed the butterflies away, and we’re here to dish the details every step of the way.  Her very charming, albeit small, apartment is located in a super-cute Chicago ‘hood and is bubbling over with potential.  But let’s be real here – we know small.

Our first space to tackle is the living room.  Check out the old Chicago charm in the fireplace, large windows, and original blonde hardwood floors:


She recently upgraded her kitty scratched couch to a pretty, apartment-sized cream one, which will work great with what we’ve got up our sleeves.  She’s already getting down with her own decor-diva self by purchasing some cozy, colorful throws.


And we’re absolutely lovin’ the mismatched chairs and circle table.  But don’t let the plain jane coffee table fool you – that puppy actually spins!  Talk about a crowd pleaser. Even still, it won’t get off that easily.  The swirly table has a makeover coming it’s way.


Renee is asking for something light and airy, but playful and sophisticated as well.  No problem, girl.  Be sure to stay tuned as we bring you updates throughout our start-to-finish redo.

Like Antique Malls? Get In the Business.

As the title of this post suggests, my aunt and uncle did just that. And with a last name like Master, what better name than Master Pieces Antiques?

Aunt Mary Pat and Uncle Doug have always had a passion for antiques. It’s been obvious in their choices of hundred-year-old houses, vintage British sports cars and rooms furnished with more timeless pieces of furniture than you could utilize in a lifetime. That said, it was no real surprise to anyone when they walked away from the recycling station they owned and opened an antique mall.

The first mall started in the front section of a former department store, but after continually expanding into more and more of the space, the owner of the building decided he had different plans for the property. This set off a light bulb in their collective heads: Why not buy the building half a mile down the road and lay down some permanent roots? Sure, it required a lot of hard work and TLC to bring it up to code, but the Art Deco style would be the perfect compliment to the vintage wares that would soon spill over inside.

On a recent trip to Cincinnati to visit the family, we worked a trip to the new digs into the plans and soaked up the classic, colorful vibes that had already begun filling the space floor to ceiling. We’re incredibly excited to share with you, our loyal readers, some of the ways you could throw some vintage vibes into your own homes to mix thing up a bit and step away from the big-box norm. So here’s a little glimpse of what we saw.

The mall is divided into many sections, with a few small rooms arranged around the perimeter, and a large space, divided into many vendor booths in the main area. Up a couple stairs and the first room on the left revealed this amazing vintage penny-farthing bicycle and some awesome vintage prints. There’s so much to look at, and we’ve only been inside no more than a minute.


Inside the next room, we snatched a clean copy of Bob Dylan’s Nashville Skyline, along with a classic Temptations record from this gentleman who happened to be in his space handling a bit of inventory. We chatted about classic rock and roll albums for a few minutes and we were on our way.


Down a small flight of stairs, we were greeted by this awesome octagonal mirror for only seventeen bones (which we wished we had wall space for) and these cool brass chandeliers. We have a little chandelier refinish project up our sleeve already, so we took note of some of the detail work on these and forced ourselves to walk away empty-handed.


Around the next bend, we were greeted by this well-worn lion, which made us wish we had enough outdoor space to grant him the regal home he deserves. Again, we had to convince ourselves we didn’t have space for these unique porcelain teacups, but you should probably go pick them up for yourself, shouldn’t you? They would look amazing on display in your kitchen, right? You could even use them as tiny dishes for candies when you invite your crew over. Next to the teacups was this funky green shelf, chock full of vintage pots and pans. My lovely wife could not get over the way that all of the colors worked with one another to create one big pile of shabby-chic kaleidoscopic goodness. But alas, the green shelf was for display only, and our cupboards are already overflowing with one too many pots and pans as it is. There’s always next time.


Next up, we bumped into this simple dresser, which Kim nearly convinced me to strap to the roof of our trusty Corolla and bring back to Chicago. Our dresser is just right for our current space, so it wasn’t really an option for us. Although, with a quick coat of colorful paint you’d have yourself a bright vintage piece that cost you fifty bucks and is surely far sturdier than anything you’d pick up from Ikea or Target. You could even grab some new drawer pulls to make this piece one to call your own. You just have to see the potential…


Wait, did someone mention drawer pulls? I must say, the amazing selection of pulls, knobs, and do-dads to aid in all of your furniture restoration projects made us salivate. We picked up a cool, minty green knob for ourselves with a project already in mind.  Remember, try to think of antique malls and vintage shops as nice alternatives to a quick run to Target. You’ll more than likely find a few unique and well-made items for your space, instead of the same mass-produced boring retreads that every other person in your neighborhood already owns.


Just when we thought we were on our way out, we found an awesome project idea: Use a classic iron griddle of any size as a magnet board. Hang it by the handle or use some sturdy picture hanging hardware and you’ve got yourself a unique way to display your honey-do list, grocery reminders, or even some treasured photos.  What a simple way to add some pizazz to your kitchen decor.


All in all, we couldn’t even begin to photograph, let alone describe all of the truly wonderful things we saw at our visit to Master Pieces. I guess you’ll just have to stop by and check it out for yourself. If you’re not in the Cincinnati area, don’t let that stop you from checking out your local Antique mall. You never know what’ll be lurking around the corner, begging to lend a unique touch to your home. Enjoy!

Old Sweet Home

For most of my life, I grew up in a ranch style home in Yellow Springs, Ohio. It was one mile from my first job at the Young’s Dairy ice cream shop, and I often get a hankerin’ for their sweet scoops served up in a crunchy waffle cone. Problem is, my family moved to the hills of Pennsylvania after I graduated high school, so the closest we get to that ice cold treat is when we’re visiting Scott’s mom and pop in Cincinnati – one hour south of Yellow Springs. It’s a bit of a detour to hit up my old hometown on the drive back to Chicago, but one day in June our cravings got the best of us, and we made it happen. Once we were good and full of a Young’s lunch followed by the sinful dessert, we made a pit stop to my ol’ stomping grounds.  And there she was, the one story brick-box in all her glory.


We sat there on their curb, still in the car, while I pointed out to Scott which window was my bedroom (second from the left). I also detailed the story of planting that tree in the backyard, which is now peeking it’s way over the roof and seen from the street, there on the right. The basketball hoop is still in place, just barely visible off the driveway, and I recalled countless hours of trying to make a basket while standing backwards (my record was five times in a row; sadly, no one was there to witness it). And even though those cars parked on the pavement aren’t ours, the minivan conjured up the memories of toting my siblings around to soccer and hockey practices. With a quick click of the camera, the sly stalker in me captured those nostalgic thoughts, and we headed home to Chicago.

Has anyone else tracked down their childhood home? If so, have you had the guts to knock on the door, or is that a step too far? I wonder if my room is still blue or if the tile my mom and dad laid in the kitchen is still in place.  I may never know, but it’s comforting to see the exterior almost exactly as we left it almost ten years ago – just a little more mature, with new memories being created inside.

Condo Crawlin’

Here’s a puzzler: You’ve lucked out with some pretty great neighbors and you want to figure out a way to get them all in the same place at the same time to share some food, drinks, and conversation. The problem lies in the fact that since we all share the same tiny floorplan, there was no real way for any one place to host the whole crew comfortably for any extended amount of time. That’s when it dawned on us; we host a pub-crawl/old-timey progressive dinner hybrid gathering in which everyone shares hosting duties for about a half hour. Behold! The first annual YBH building Condo Crawl is born! Kim and I, along with our great new neighbor Chris, hatched the idea over a couple of cold ones out on the porch a while back. A quick association-wide email later and the time slots started filling up. Kim and Chris collaborated on a schedule/invite card and the rest is history. Here’s a photographic voyage of how it all went down, starting with yours truly. Seeing that summer was finally upon us, mojitos and southwestern roll-ups were on order in the YBH.


The drinks were a big hit and everyone seemed to like the appetizers, but before we knew it, the clock struck 6:30 and it was off to the next stop where we were greeted with an Italian theme. Peroni, red wine and home made bruschetta were on order. Along with great food and drink, we were welcomed by two fantastic cats with the same lion-shaped haircut. Meet Putin:


After another quick half hour, we moved back to the unit below us, where we were greeted with home-made sangria, ice cold beers, and some amazing little appetizers made of spiced lamb and veggies – holy yum, by the way.

Next up came the bike shop. That’s right. I said bike shop. Our building houses two retail units on the main street. One is a dentist, the other is Smart Bike Parts, which is pretty much the coolest shop in Chicago (with a pretty killer online store). I can walk through their back door without leaving our back gate. I have a bit of a bicycle obsession, so this is the greatest thing ever. Once inside the shop, a Thai noodle appetizer and freshly blended banana pina coladas were there to cool us off and liven us up.


I hope everyone is starting to pick up on the fact that at this point, a different adult beverage at each stop on the crawl, every half hour is beginning to make for a very enjoyable evening. Around this time, the order of things gets a little jumbled, but I can tell you that I did a shot of tequila from half of a hollowed-out lime shortly thereafter, followed by everything from wine to the finest of microbrews. And how could I forget the cake? We also utilized the occasion to congratulate our awesome next-door neighbor, Fredi, who had recently been accepted to the Chicago Fire Department. The program is nearly impossible to get into, so a fire truck-shaped cake was presented, and promptly devoured by the crawlers.

Chris, our organizing partner in crime, and his wife Angela decked out their custom chalkboard wall to greet the eager crawlers. What a simple and unique place to jot your “honey do” notes, get down with your creative side, or in this case, welcome a crew of thirsty house guests. (Score a quart of this paint at any local hardware store).


After all eight units had given us the grand tour and one too many beverages to boot, it was only around 10pm. What to do next but move upstairs to the 3 largest adjoining decks and keep the party going?


All said and done, the crawl was a huge success. We all had a blast, and we’re already hatching plans for the next one. Which leads me to wonder…what have you all done to get to know your neighbors (and catch a glimpse of the inside of their place at the same time)? Tried and true backyard BBQ? Block party? Square dance? Or are your neighbors so intolerable that the thought of spending a Saturday night with them sends you into fits of rage? We’d love to hear your stories… and possibly even steal your ideas for the 2nd crawl. I’m thirsty already.

Secrets In the Closet

Psst. I have a dirty little secret: My closet is a mess.  Something had to change.  Every morning became a daily battle to find the day’s outfit, only to be discouraged by the mess of clothes and wondering where I put my shoes.  Every girl knows that a snappy outfit means a happy day, and I just wasn’t able to pull together those smashin’ separates with all the chaos hidden behind those doors.  Scott and I have an unspoken rule that what happens in your closet, stays in your closet.  Although his closet has a home in the office, he still has his secrets, and I have mine.  But when the time came to unleash those monsters, my loving husband came to the rescue with a drill in hand.  Here I am, to bare all.  My before and after:


I realize the “before” may not seem like a nightmare to most.  I should know, I’ve seen worse in my sister’s bedroom.  But for a gal like me, enough was enough.  As you can see, it’s no bigger than about eight feet wide, and it’s only as deep as the photos show.  Two years ago, I thought that installing the shelving on the left would lend me extra space.  What was I thinking? Those shelves took away the above extra space for hanging up those oh-so-delicate blouses, jackets, and tanks.  The mis-matched shoe storage and three drawer unit, which at the time housed my beloved arts & crafts supplies, take up precious floor space, and you know by now that in this home, every inch matters.

After a trip to our favorite hot spot, Home Depot, the hubs de-installed and re-installed not only existing shelving, but also the spankin’ new extra long Rubbermaid units we just picked up.  Because the shelves on the left were lowered, I gained a good chunk of clothes hanging space that I had previously neglected.  The shoes are now stacked up on these smaller shelves, and the crisp, white shelves are the perfect spot to stack the tees, jeans, and jammies.  The unsightly storage bin (full of old photo hot lights, processing tanks, and back up photo albums), once collecting dust on the top shelf of the closet, was brought down to our basement storage unit.  The empty spot was replaced by our many paint bins – which we often grab for easy touch ups.

Rather than recycle my old glossies, I rolled them up and stuffed them in my floppy boots.  No more creases in the soft leather, and I’m ready for Fall.  Those sweet bins tucked under the lowest shelf? A score from – you guessed it – Ikea.  The college-days-bin unit said good bye at our condo-wide yard sale, and my paints, brushes, fabrics, and paper are tucked neatly away in style.


And those plastic hangers? Good riddance.  They were happily replaced by chic, “huggable” flocked hangers.  No more slippage from my silk shirts, lined coats, and pretty black dresses.  The best part is how thin and sturdy they are, taking up half the space of my former hangers.  As usual, I’m starting to wonder why I didn’t invest in those fuzzy wonders sooner.  My clothes stay put, and I stay organized.


While I’m on a roll, why not make myself feel like a queen every day with some elegant, glass knobs?  At just one buck a pop, these beauties snagged from the check-out lane at JoAnn Fabrics was, as they say, a drop in the bucket.  That’s one heckuva quick and easy transformation.


Even though my closet makeover stays behind closed doors, I finally feel pulled together.  My secrets aren’t so hush-hush anymore, and I think Scott is just content that I haven’t asked him for the tenth time where my sandals are.  Now if only I could get him to dish the dirt on what lies behind his doors.  One step at a time, I suppose.

This Little Light of Mine

… has made all the difference.  Suddenly, we’re seeing a side of our room we never knew we had.  Perched on our end table, this pint-sized lamp illuminates all the right places.  Now our living space feels twice the size, and twice as nice.


Dare I say it was scooped up (sans shade) at a friend’s stoop sale for just two dollar bills? After scouring the shelves at the wonderful world of Target with no luck (too big, too small, too ugly, too – ew), we ultimately found the fresh, white shade online.  And with a price tag of just $14.99, the whole kit-n-kaboodle came in well under twenty bones.  What a steal for something we should have invested in moons ago.  Oh, the magic of a shining light.

DIY: A Place To Perch

This past June, Scott and I packed our bags and headed south to Cincinnati.  Every trip home includes a few of the same rituals: Skyline chili, Graeter’s ice cream, and the Peddler’s Flea Market.  Surely, you’re not suprised at my mention of the flea.  At this point, I think you’re catching on fast that this married duo loves a bargain, and we’ll travel far and wide to get it.  As you can imagine, we didn’t leave empty handed.  We picked up this bad boy, just begging for some good lovin’:

bench_before_webAs we all know, summer can fly by, and before you know it, it’s August and you’re wondering where the time went.  Welp, June and July came and went, and our bitty bench waited patiently in the corner until just a few weeks ago, when we finally got down to business.  You can see here the underside of the bench (and the mess of flimsy tacks to hold the awesomely 80’s fabric in place), the surprise cover underneath (adorned with scuzzy corners and all), and finally, a close up of what was under the eighties yardage, which could have actually been pretty groovy:

before_reupholster_webAfter mourning the loss of the mustard-cloth-gone-bad, I grabbed my Patricia fabric (scored from Ikea – where else?) and got crackin’.  Following a much needed ironing, I tucked under the raw, freshly cut edges, and I used some blue painter’s tape to hold everything in place.  I adjusted the tape and checked the pattern several times until I was positive that this baby was lined up, pulled snug and tight, and ready for action.  Next up: the handy staple gun, with which I made my mark every three inches.

reupholster_webScott got down with his DIY-bad-self by shaking a bottle of clean, white spray paint.  He started with a primer, followed by a flat white, and finished it off with a satin clear coat.  Tip: Take the time to slip on your throwaway sneaks and those less-than-favorite duds.  No matter how controlled the environment, that fine mist will find it’s way under your nails, in your hair, and in the seams of your favorite jeans.  Although the hubs waited for a dead air day, the windy city got the best of him a few times.

spray_webWe very impatiently waited overnight for all those sticky coats to dry and eagerly put the whole seat back together the next evening.  Scott secured the seat by adding six extra long screws into the base on the underside, fished out from his trusty Grandpa Jar.  In turn, the pretty little perch feels more sturdy than the day we snagged her from Peddler’s.


Of course, we must keep in mind that DIY is not only self-satisfying, but it’s also a way to keep those costs down.  So let’s break it down by the numbers:

bench, $5
fabric, $7.99/yd
primer, $2.99
white paint, $2.99
clear coat, $2.99

Our grand total comes in at just under twenty-two smackers.  Not bad considering those gams got quite the overhaul.  And now we have an extra seat for a home full of friends or a charming place to prop those tired toes.  DIY mission accomplished.

Grandpa Jar

We’ve all been there: halfway through a major (or not so major) project when you realize you desperately need a random screw, nut, bolt, nail or washer, and nothing on Earth could convince you to ride, drive, or walk to Home Depot for the third time in a single day. That’s when it hits you: you need to dig into the Grandpa Jar.

I got my Grandpa Jar right around the time I bought my first place. The 3 bedroom Cincinnati fixer-upper that I bought when I secured my first “real” job right out of college. A tenant in my grandmother’s condo building had passed away, and my uncle had purchased the majority of the estate. In exchange for my assistance in schlepping the goods from one place to another, I was granted free reign over all the things that were destined for donation.

Along with some awesome antique tools and hardware items, the most invaulable item that I brought home was this magical jar of metal.


My dear ol’ dad has several jars, bins and containers full of random fasteners in his tool kit, many of which came into his hands after his tough-as-nails Hungarian grandfather passed away. Hence the name: “Grandpa Jar.” Some of the stuff on my dad’s workbench probably dates back to first generation immigrants from Europe, and my brothers and I all learned long ago to never throw any of that stuff away. Our jar now contains everything from tetanus filled pre-WWII nuts and bolts, to those weird little dowels that seem to hold together everything you’ve ever bought from IKEA.

The fact of the matter is, when you want to wrap up the last bit of that project you’ve been meaning to finish for a month, nothing can take the wind out of your sails like having to make another run to the hardware store. That’s when any homeowner or creative renter worth their salt will bust out the jar and finish up the deed using the stuff you’ve been saving your entire life. Simply find a fastener that fits and wrap it up.


Bonus points if your container is more than 30 years old and contained condiments at one point. Even more bonus points if your container has passed through more than one generation, especially if verbal instruction came along with the passing of the Grandpa Jar torch. Now dump that jar out on the kitchen counter and get to work.

Oh, one more thing: I’m Scott, the manpower behind the YBH. Any project involving power tools usually defaults to me. Keep your eyes peeled for handy instructions on how to do fun and exciting man-jobs like mounting a flat screen TV, hanging bicycles from your ceiling and wiring an entertainment center. I’m looking forward to it.

Put a Shelf Under It

Got stuff? So do we.  But I say that very lightly.  I’m not a fan of things that clutter up a space for no good reason, although I do love framed art, plants, and Henry.  In that way, I’m a bit of a catch 22.  Browsing the mean streets of the flea markets, I often find myself with trinkets in hand, convincing Scott that we do have a place to put this adorable lil’ thingamabob.  As much as I argue my point and my man questions my motives, that little voice in the back of my head begs me to put it down.  My eureka moment came last Christmas when we received a pretty neat little bike sculpture from my mother-in-law.  She prefaced the gift unveiling by saying, “Now, Kim, I know how much you can’t stand ‘stuff’ lying around…but you’ll like this.”  Okay.  Is it that apparent? I was a little startled that I had become known as the girl who doesn’t like “stuff,” but Scott and I have come up with the most simple solution for this problem.  Put a shelf under it.

One idea: three succulents scored from the Home Depot at three bucks a pop, planted in Ikea Mandel pots, also three smackers.  The pretties are layered with a sentimental favorite photo of my rock star grandparents.  The fresh, white frame feels crisp against mint walls and green, mother nature.


Another idea: A framed photo from Scott’s aunt as a wedding gift.  The gold frame is unexpected in our mostly stainless steel home, and the bicycle shout out is especially fitting, since our vows and reception decor centered around a bike theme.  The manzanita branch was painted a pale yellow, leftover from our fish tank, and the simple glass vase is filled with shells scored from our honeymoon in Jamaica.


Our main living space is an open concept plan which leads straight into the kitchen.  Because of this, we have only three walls that make a living room.  To put this into perspective, let’s just say we have a 5’x7′ rug that grounds our furniture with little room to spare.  What better excuse to bring in a shelf or two, three, or four?  The above mentioned photos, plants, and art are proud on display, yet they didn’t even eat an inch of our floor plan.  At the same time, the wall shelving adds a bit of pizazz that a nail in the wall just couldn’t live up to.  You’ve just seen a few details, now here’s the room as a whole:


As you can see, this married team has become the number one fan of the Ikea Ekby wall shelf.  The industrial look and clean lines caught our eye almost two years ago, and we’ve never looked back.  You’ve learned that our sideboard is quite the handy dandy means for storing albums, beloved books, and pay stubs, but what about those things that add oomph to a room? Those bits that add to the lovliness of your space?  Set it on display.

Check out our colorful globe we scored a few weeks back at the flea.  Within a week, we added a wall shelf to the office just for her.  Luckily, we had the extra hardware and wood plank in the back of our coat closet, and we installed the third shelf (we already had two) in under 15 minutes.  Bonus points: the extra unit added a much needed touch of height to the room.  From left to right: installation, three shelves detail, and office whole.


In the almost two years that we’ve carved out our tiny home in this yellow-brick-building, we’ve watched as our shelves rotate from wall to wall, move side to side, come down altogether, and get anchored up again.  With a little spackle and a dab of touch up paint, these fierce planks of wood can be swapped around in a jif, leaving no traces of scars on the wall.  As our mood changes, new “stuff” goes up and old “stuff” comes down.  Talk about instant gratification. Er, transformation.

Sweet Slumber

I’ve been a little stressed recently.  Ok, a lot stressed.  The summer season brings a heavier workload to my day job, and although my nine-to-five troubles should stay in the office, it’s often easier said than done.  But it’s not all work: I was very much under the weather last week, among other things, and to put it quite blunty, I’m just a tightly wound kind of gal.  Scott takes it all in stride, but I think he’s hoping my trauma induced nail-biting streak will end sooner than later.

Let’s back track.  When we first moved into our home, I wanted nothing more than an orange bedroom.  Yes, I really said orange.  It’s my favorite color, but I rarely use it in our home’s decor.  It often times can come off too grating, too Halloween-like, too construction-zone, too..well, just a bit too much.  But after being afraid to use my favorite color for too many years, I finally got my orange bedroom.  And I love it.  But when you add a bold, graphic bedspread to an already very lively room, is it taking it too far? Did we step over to the bit-too-much side? With so much tension in my day, how can I possibly be expected to sleep when everything seems so chaotic, so much?


Enter new bedspread.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  I love a bold fleur de lis print just as much as the next girl.  Is it obvious as you look at this very blog’s background?  But as soon as I saw the buttercream waffle-weave print duvet at our local HomeGoods, I knew it had to be ours.  Of course, when I saw the charming mint green sheets next to it, I knew I couldn’t go home without both.  Bonus points: the hint-of-green pop of color would go great with the recent stripe we painted behind our headboard.  I already felt more at ease, and I had barely reached the checkout line.


At lights out, I can hardly wait to snuggle deep down into our new tranquil oasis of creamy, cool blanket heaven.  Although Scott wasn’t exactly thrilled at the prospect of purchasing yet another bundle of bed linens, I’ve seen him sleeping with a smile on his lips (and really, we’re talking HomeGoods prices here).  I now have a calm, peaceful retreat to rest my head.  My mind feels more clear as I drift away, and waking up no longer feels like such a rude awakening.


Our fleur de lis spread has found it’s way into our linen storage, and for now, I’m okay with that.  She’ll come out again when the time is right.  But at this moment, I’m reveling in my new peaceful haven.