Finding a Color Scheme for the Home

You know how when you are planning a wedding, the first thing you have to do is pick your colors?  Once that is done, everything becomes easy.  It also helps to have a style like “rustic”, “elegant”, whatever.  I think decorating your house might be a little like that too.  Without a style and a color scheme, you are just randomly picking things you like and hoping they work together.

Well after looking at pictures of my house, I finally realized that my color scheme of beige, brown, white, off-white, and grayish beige was not really working.  I was complaining about it being cloudy out and how depressing it was when my mom gently suggested that maybe if I had some color in my house it would cheer me up.


I had tried to “warm up” the house by buying various things.  Baskets (brown), new cloth napkins (white with beige stripes!), some creamware pitchers from a thrift shop (off white), a canvas bag for kindling (tan), and more baskets (brown brown brown).  Well.  She was right.


(Seriously.  Why?)

I didn’t know what to do.  I obviously could not pick out colorful things myself.

But I stumbled upon this delightful blog that said to pick four colors.  A primary, a secondary, a primary accent, and a secondary accent.  And luckily for me, the example given used a rug with the same colors as the rugs in my house.  I might not be able to think of a color scheme, but I could certainly copy one!


My colors are:

Gold/ brown (Obviously.)

Navy blue

Red/ burgundy

Colonial blue (I guess that’s what this lighter shade of blue is)


I think green plants are allowed in all color schemes and don’t count as one of the four.

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Red bowl returns.


Maybe I could make some navy and white ticking stripe curtains?


Found this fabric in my craft closet and THINK it is the right shade of blue.  Going to make springy throw pillow covers.


A blue and white pitcher.  Baby steps!

P.S. My wedding colors were peach and champagne.  (Beige and warm beige.)

Decorating as a way to“people” the home

Have you ever heard of the term in architecture to “people” a space? It was used by the architect Donlyn Lyndon as a way to make spaces feel more human, inviting, and alive. I first read about this in William Hirsch’s book on home design. It was my favorite part of the book. I believe that Lyndon originally intended the ideas to be used to make public spaces more inviting, but they are applicable to the home as well.


These are the ways Lyndon says this can be accomplished:

1. Use of human scale. (No two story spaces, uncomfortably enormous windows, or 20 foot columns.)

2. “Windows of appearance”: a window that suggests that at any point a person could appear. (Picture flat, non-operational office windows and think of how uncomfortable a message they send.)

3. Spaces for planned and unplanned interaction. (Areas where people who run into each other can stop and chat, instead of just rushing from one place to the next.)

4. Use of handmade items, or items that require maintenance by hand. Lyndon says that the craftsman people’s the space with his work. Someone who cares for that item peoples the space with their work as well. (Think of a set of handmade tiles vs sheet vinyl.)


I have always been interested in architecture and what make a home feel “right” and this is one of the most interesting things I’ve come across, along with the book “A Pattern Language”.


But a lot of this is only useful if we are building from scratch. How can I use this to make my home cozier and more inviting if it is already built?


Here are some ideas I have come up with. The pictures are all from around my house but I have a looooong way to go with this.


We have no curtains, hardly any furniture and all our walls are beige!  But as time and money allow, I want to use all these principles as a decorating guideline for our home.


Human scale:

Indoor plants that are the size of people feel almost like a companion

Darker wall paint makes a room with too-tall ceilings a little cozier


Windows of appearance:

Windows open


Window boxes

A clothesline (not in the window, but same idea)


Spaces for planned and unplanned interaction:

Seating in bedrooms where someone could sit for a talk.

A chair in a bathroom so one spouse can sit and talk to the other who is getting ready

Tables cleared of clutter so they can be used for eating dinner, doing crafts, sitting and reading, etc.

Seating in the kitchen- either at a table or counter stools


Handmade looking items, or items that require maintenance by hand (now we get to a lot of ideas!)

Items made my hand:



Handmade looking pottery (planters, bowls, etc)

Original artwork

Embroidered items

Rag rugs

Homemade furniture

Knit scarves, hats, etc by the door

Cut flowers

Items requiring human maintenance:

A fire in the fireplace


A well tended garden

Polished stainless or copper pots and pans

Flowerpots by the house


Bird feeders


They are all just ways to say “humans made this house, and humans live in this house”.


Seems so very simple, but so many items seem to say “machines built this house, and for no particular reason”.



It is nice to have a decorating style at last.  “Human!”

How much…

One of my pet peeves is articles about homesteading written by people who have never done it. “It is so easy to grow fresh food for your family!” “Sewing your own clothes will save you money!”, “chickens can provide you with free meat and eggs!”

None of that is true at all. It is hard, can be very expensive, and there will be years that all you do is fail.

And it is completely missing the point.

For example, did you know that a loaf of bread can be purchased for under a dollar?


That eggs at Costco are less than ten cents each?



That land taxes will go up every year?



That free range chickens require you to go lock up them up every evening at sunset?



That tractors, even used, are very expensive?


That heating your home with wood is messy and requires year-round work?


That the further you are from town, the longer it takes your roads to be cleared in snow?


That line drying your clothes will bring pollen and bugs in your house?


That soap at Walmart is cheaper than making your own?



That unless you are making minimum wage, it is almost always financially advantageous to work and put your kids in daycare?




That porches are expensive to build and require maintenance?



That homegrown flowers save you exactly nothing?



So put away your spreadsheet. It will never tell you what is it worth.

Rethinking the Linen Closet

I have been on a mission to redo the storage in my house. After realizing that traditional storage locations make no sense, I have been changing everything up around here. Things are now stored at their point of use, not where the label on the house plan dictates they should go.  I don’t have beautiful linen closet pictures, but I have functional storage.

Our pantry was in our mudroom and it got turned into a closet for coats, flashlights, and other things that live by the back door. The food that was in the pantry went in the kitchen. Pretty simple, but felt like a revelation.

Next up…. the linen closet. We have a large one upstairs full of junk. It held sheets, towels, extra toilet paper and toiletries, and the air mattress. I did not want to rearrange things in expensive crates. I did not want labels. I wanted to store things logically and for free.

My new organizing philosophy, store at point of use, made this one easy.

Storing towels- Towels are used in the bathroom. Obviously. And yet they are almost universally stored in a hallway. Can someone explain this to me. I divided them up and four went under each bathroom cabinet. I rolled them and they didn’t take up much room. I like to keep ratty towels for drying off muddy people or mopping up disasters. So I put them in the mudroom closet. Beach towels… this was a hard one. Our girls get changed into their swimsuits up in their rooms, so the beach towels went in a drawer in one of their dressers with their swimsuits and goggles. If that doesn’t work, I will move them to the mudroom closet in summer to grab on the way out. There will be more room since all the coats will be out of there.

Storing paper goods- a few rolls of paper towels under the kitchen sink, a roll in each bathroom for cleaning mirrors, and toilet paper divvied up among the bathrooms. We buy paper towels and toilet paper in bulk, so we still had extra. These went to the basement, which I like to think of as my mini grocery store. I only put things there if there are sufficient duplicates where they are needed, so that going to the basement is like going to the store to replenish that stock. I’m not explaining this well. Anyway.


(Each bathroom has its own supplies.)

Sheets- they are used in the bedroom. I do not have a lot of extra sheets. In fact for our bed I have only one set. They are washed and put right back on. If someone happens to throw up (or other) in our bed, I strip it and put down throw blankets from the living room until everything is washed. Our kids have extra sheets because they have flannel ones for cold weather. I folded those up (very poorly) and they went in the top shelf of their closet.


(Now it’s easy to clean the bathroom, restock the towels/ soap/ whatever is needed.)

What else- the aero bed went in the closet of the guest room where it is likely to be used. Spare toiletries were divided among the bathrooms. Extra sheets were thrown out, since they were completely useless and ugly. There was a collection of travel size toiletries that I moved to the guest room in a basket. Saved grocery bags for trash went into bathrooms as well. Extra blankets were folded at the bottom of beds or put in the guest room closet.

And now what is this empty closet for?

Well, we have a toy problem in this house, despite the fact that I buy them hardly any! The girls have a little play loft in the upstairs hallway off their bedrooms. So their toys are stored in the old linen closet. I take out a few at a time and rotate them out every week. It keeps them interested and able to clean up what is out (in theory). They are not allowed to open it, but they are welcome to request things. It works because they play right next to it, so the task of rotating their toys is easy. And therefore it actually happens!


(This looks like a disaster, but because there are only a few sets of things out, they could clean it up quickly.)

So down with the linen closet! Unless you have one actually in the bathroom, because that would be perfect. And what is with all these extra sheets! Even if I had no need for a toy closet, I would still arrange my linen closet contents to be stored at point of use. The closet could be for gifts, out of season storage, or whatever else I don’t need easy access to at the moment.


Cleaning day awaits!

Getting rid of my pantry

Probably 90% of what I save to Pinterest is pictures of pantries, laundry rooms, broom closets, and potting sheds. There is something so beautiful about them… places that say dedication to the home, organization, attractive utility. I have always dreamed of a walk in pantry, to go in and be surrounded by glowing home canned jams, baskets or potatoes, braids of onions, and bunches of herbs drying. It was the number one thing I wanted when we were planning our new house.

Our original plan had a 9×9 room with two windows, off the kitchen, facing northwest and northeast. One wall was a step in pantry with three walls. The other wall had a broom closet and a built in desk for me to lovingly craft handwritten notes and meal plans. Well… through a series of events, my laundry room got turned into my husbands office and the washer and dryer had to be moved into my pantry room. Fine. Broom closet was taken away, and we planned on a stackable washer and dryer going in its place.

Then, the house had to be angled differently than we envisioned because of the slope of the land, and instead of pulling up at the front door, you would pull up at the side of the house. So a door was added where a window once was, and my pantry

room became a laundry room/ mud room/ pantry. The lovely desk with a window above became a bench. Sad. I always had wanted one well used entrance instead of a front door no one used. Oh well. We decided to tile that room instead of using hardwood and I consoled myself with pretty mudroom pictures.

And then, most horrible of all, it was discovered a washer and dryer wouldn’t fit in the footprint of the broom closet, and they would have to go on the long wall, side by side, where the pantry was supposed to be! My old washer and dryer! No new ones. No pantry. No broom closet. No desk for my, um…. correspondence.

So I got my broom closet back! But it was now a pantry. And because of where the light switch had to go the door is too small for it and one side is impossible to get to. And it bumps in to the mudroom door. And there is no coat closet. I don’t mean no coat closet in the mudroom. I mean none in the whole house. So coats and backpacks are on hooks, shoes are piled up in front of the bench that no one sits on, cans disappear in this odd, deep pantry closet, and I must correspond using the kitchen table!

And guess who goes in the office that was supposed to be my laundry room? No one! No. One.

I feel better now.

Anyway, one year after moving in it was all driving me a bit nuts. I had recovered from the loss of the special dream room. But there was too much going on in this actual room. The coat situation was awful. So two days after Christmas, in a fit of aggravation, I took all the food out of the pantry and shoved everyone’s coats and bags inside. And there they remain. (Except for my husbands, which seem to prefer… the kitchen island.)

And do you know what I realized? Storing your food in a room other than the kitchen does not make a lot of sense.

I took my own advice and put the food stuffs throughout the kitchen, where they are used. I have a corner of the kitchen with my mixer with the spice cabinet above. In the corner lazy Susan went all the oils and vinegars, different kinds of flour and sugar. Cornmeal, molasses, honey, rice, oatmeal, things of that nature. Everything fits, even Costco sized oils and ten pound bags of flours. Frequently used dry ingredients went in canisters on the counter. Why would one want to go another room to get ingredients for a baking project, and then back again to put them all away? Oh I need a teaspoon of vinegar. Let me shuffle into the pantry. It is as silly as a cleaning closet.

Canned goods, dry pasta, and extras of things like salad dressing went in one 36 inch lower cabinet that used to hold my canning jars. Everything fit, and I have many duplicates. The canning jars went on an upper shelf on an upper cabinet. I will need to use a step stool to get them, but I can handle that.

The upper cabinet above the “can cabinet” holds snacks. Any extras go above the fridge. Fruit in a bowl, cookies in the cookie jar. Bread in a drawer below the toaster, next to the fridge. I do not buy cereal. If I did I would put it near the fridge or the cereal bowls. Coffee went in the cabinet below the coffeemaker.

I do have a large unfinished basement where I can store home canned foods,extra paper towels, ziplock bags, and things that I buy in bulk. But I treat the basement storage as my own little grocery store. Anything that I would need in moment is in the kitchen, where I need it. When I run out, I go down to the basement to restock.

The vacuum lives at the top of the basement stairs where there is a large landing. It is centrally located so works out fine.

And now I have a super useful laundry room/ mudroom. When dirty children come in from climbing piles of dirt (yes, this actual thing they do) they shed their clothes to be dropped right in the washer. The broom closet, then pantry, now coat closet holds coats, snow pants, boots, old towels for cleaning off mud, kitty treats, birdseed, sunscreen, a first aid kit. The shelving above the washer and dryer holds laundry stuff. I would love to have them redone to be a bit more attractive and have two rows of shelving. But I don’t really need more storage.

It is not what I imagined, and we now have an office and a large foyer that go largely unused. But I am hoping to turn the office into a small sewing room, and the foyer would be nice open floor space for board games and puzzles. And visitors do tend to use it.

So my point is… pantries are dead to me. Beautiful in pictures. Not practical unless they are truly in the kitchen, and are nice and shallow so nothing gets lost. A twelve inch deep cabinet, floor to ceiling, would be ideal. I am glad I did not waste a whole wall on one. But I still long for that desk.

How I am Keeping My Kitchen Clean Every Day

Last summer I started following a homemaking schedule where certain things were done on certain days: “Laundry day”, “Town Day”, etc.  I loved the fact that it gave each day a focus and kept me ahead of the game instead of constantly playing catch up.  I also loved that it had a slightly retro feel.  I felt like a real housewife!  But one day, Kitchen Day, was torturing me.

It was a day for canning, baking, cooking ahead, making freezer meals, and cleaning the kitchen.  This meant organizing the fridge and cleaning the shelves, washing the trash cans, cleaning the sink, organizing the pantry and the cabinets, and all those little tasks that kitchens need.  It was just too much, and it was stressing me out.

I realized I was acting a bit silly, as if federal law had decreed that I must cook ahead and clean the kitchen in one day.  So I decided to change things up and it has been a huge improvement.

Two or three times a day, I go in to the kitchen to make a cup of tea.  It steeps for seven minutes.  During those seven minutes, I do one small task to clean the kitchen.  Just one!

It has been amazing!  The kitchen is always clean, and it feels effortless!  Setting a timer has been so important for this working for me.  


Here are some of of the chores I tackle during those seven minutes.

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-cleaning the sink with barkeepers friend and filling it with water and a splash of bleach

-organizing and wiping down ONE shelf or drawer in the fridge

-cleaning the fronts of the cabinets

-getting down on the floor with a damp microfiber cloth and mopping by hand (surprisingly quick and effective)

-organizing and wiping out one drawer

-polishing the stainless steel appliances

-filling the coffee maker with vinegar and to clean it

-cleaning the cooktop

-organizing the pantry cabinets

-cleaning the kitchen windows or sliding glass door

-polishing two pans with bar keepers friend, drying them, and putting them back


I am so happy I changed up this aspect of my homemaking routine.  And it has freed up my Tuesdays so that they are now “baking day”, and I am free to do things like this:





So if I skip a day, no big deal.  And after the chore is completed, I get to relax with a cup of tea!


Organizing the Home: A Place for Everything; Point of Use Storage

I am a little weird, and used to have a list of phrases that I liked and signified happiness.  For example “baby’s first Christmas”, “homemade birthday cake”, and “trip to the strawberry patch”.  But the greatest phrase of all is “a place for everything, and everything in its place.”  Beautiful.

I think most of us are fairly adept at the second part.  Or we at least don’t need to be told how do it.  But the first part…yikes.  A place for everything is actually a huge challenge.   And the answer is very rarely more space.  The answer is also not expensive crates, files, labeled stuff, or shelving.  It is simply: own fewer things and store them in a way that makes sense.

There are a few ways people decide where to put things in their home, but it is usually one of the following organizing philosophies.

  1. Store at point of use
  2. Like with like
  3. Put it where it looks good

They are all useful.  Most people use a combination of the three.  I use them in the order listed above.  So my number one factor in finding a home for something is: WHERE IS IT USED? 

Let’s take cleaning supplies for example.


This is a page from a Martha Stewart organizing magazine.  (Better write that phrase down in my notebook.)  This cleaning station follows the principle of “like with like”.  All cleaning stuff together.  It also is attractive, so it follows “put it where it looks good” as well.

However, it is a TERRIBLE idea because it completely ignores principle number one, the MOST important principle.

Who is going to run down to their “cleaning station” every time the bathroom needs to be cleaned?  No.  This is just awful.

Put a bottle of glass cleaner, an all purpose cleaner, a Soft-scrub type deep cleaner for toilets and stains, paper towels, rags, and a toilet brush in EVERY bathroom in your home.  Keep them there.  If your powder room has no storage then that one can be the exception.  But let’s get powder room sinks with vanities in the future.  And magically, you will find that your bathroom is always clean.  It is no trouble to clean it quickly once every day or so because everything is right there, because you have organized that one element of your home in a way that makes sense.

Another example, from the same magazine.


Yes!  Wonderful!  A closet at the back door for all the things you might need at that location!  With a stepstool, where it is needed!  Now within this beautiful closet/ cabinet, things are organized by the secondary principles, like with like, and put it where it looks good.  But the first principle, store at point of use, is the overarching theme of this closet, and it will be functional forever, even though its contents will change as the inhabitants of the home change.

So let’s keep these principles in mind as we decide where to store our belongings.  Let’s do it once, in a way that makes sense and won’t have to be redone next year.  Let’s put our trash cans next to the sink, our coats by the door we use the most, our kid’s craft supplies by the table they color on, our laundry baskets where we get undressed.  If it looks good there, all the better.  But let’s make it function first.




Trying to Make an Inviting Home

Our house is new, and fairly large (almost 3000 square feet), two things that are working against it in my quest to make it charming, cozy, and comfortable.  Now before we built this house we lived in the old cottage that came on the property, which was old, tiny, and infested with kitchen mice and attic snakes, so I am not complaining.

It was NOT charming, because it was in such disrepair, and not comfortable, because it was always cold and there was only one bathroom.  But it was cozy.  I will give it that.  Every square inch was used, and the things of life were out on display.  Cookbooks, toys, pots, homework.  When the cutting garden was in season, it seemed overflowing with flowers.  When we had guests, it felt full and bustling.  The new house is lacking that somehow.  I want to correct it.  Here is what I am trying.

1.  More things out

This goes against my very nature, as I like things put away.  But there is no need to pretend we don’t live here, and no need to exhaust oneself putting away baby toys during naps just to take them out again when she wakes up.  And “things” are proof that people live there.  Fruit, flowers (from Costco, and quite beautiful), crayons, sugar and flour canisters, a basket of potatoes and onions, even a pot on the stove. They have been invited to live on the counter or breakfast table as evidence of life.






2. Less stuff out for kids.  

It is well known that once kids destroy a playroom with toys, they lose interest in it.  So they are being made to clean up every evening, not just because it is right, but because when their playroom is a mess they don’t use it.  Also it is more of a loft and I have to see it when I go upstairs.  Every night they pick up, and every Friday I switch out their toys to keep them interested.  If they are in the middle of making an “important store of out of magnets”, I will of course leave it alone.





(Looks like this bookshelf needs a little help!)

3.  Keeping the dining table set

So the only picture I have of it appear to be of it not set.  But it is much more inviting with plates, place mats, cloth napkins, and silverware.  I keep it cleared off to make it easier to wipe down after lunch, and Camilla sets it after her quiet time in the afternoons.  It makes the room feel more alive.  The sun shines in the front of the house in the afternoons too, and generally cheers everyone up.


4.  More people, more animals

Of course nothing makes a house feel more alive than actual life!  So we let the kittens in on cold days, play with the baby, and try to enjoy each other’s company.  Having guests over is always nice.  More babies too.  I now sit at the kids little kitchen table while they color.  I work on grocery lists and garden plans next to them instead of somewhere else.  We feel a little more together, and I find that the more focused attention they get, the less whining there is later.






5.  Books, puzzles, board games

TV is so often depressing and isolating.  Why not do something that either invites a companion, or allows to you be together in comfortable silence?





In the future, I need to work on getting curtains, getting some rooms painted in warmer, richer colors, and getting some furniture in empty feeling rooms like the dining room, master bedroom, and guest bedroom.  I will get there!





Cozy Christmas

The Christmas decorations are still up (it is still Christmas!), and I am glad, as some of them made their appearance on Christmas Eve.  It is a shame to rush things so much that you are sick of them by the time they have actually become appropriate.  (Like premarital sex, filling up on snacks before dinner, giving two month old babies toys that they can’t play with, etc.)


The holly can only last so long when your house is a toasty 78 degrees because of your delightful fireplace!







(We used this gingerbread recipe and loved it, tons of flavor, unlike gingerbread cookies that look charming and taste like nothing.)

The last few days of school before winter break, we worked hard on our cookies, packaging up soap for teachers, and setting out our final decorations.






The peanuts had a week and a half off school, and after one day back, it snowed half an inch and they were given two snow days.


So we have been making garlands out of glittery construction paper stars…


Drinking some of our fifty dollars worth of tea we bought with a Christmas gift card.



And enjoying our Christmas gifts.

Soon it will be time to jump into January organization and garden planning and seed starting.  But now… it is still time to celebrate!


Merry Christmas!

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First Frost, and Family

It is necessary to have house guests a few times a year to get your husband to do projects that you have been fruitlessly asking for for months.  Our house is up on a steep hill, and to get to the gardens and play area you had to walk down a muddy hill.  Magically, the day before our Thanksgiving guests arrived…



(That wine barrel looks so authentic with the label still on it. And I guess I am growing kindling?)

I dug and stored the dahlias for the first time this year.  It was wonderfully thrilling pulling up the huge tubers, drying them, and storing them in shredded newspaper in the basement.  It felt so good to do what all the gardening articles say.  Perhaps next I will sharpen my tools and store them in oiled sand.

Hummingbird feeders have been cleaned and put away, and garlic planted where my old compost pile was.  A new pile has been started where it will be easier to turn with the tractor.


The other thing I have been asking for, to no avail, since we moved in was something for our foyer.  And lo and behold…


It was the most amazing moment of my life.  It came from a Pottery Barn outlet that just opened nearby.  And the rug came from upstairs.

Ellie loved having some new visitors for Thanksgiving



And with their arrival came a lot of baking.



(Sandwich rolls, molasses cookie dough for the freezer, bread for toast. Hole is from oven probe.)

And then more on Thanksgiving itself.


(Butter horn rolls from Bread Machine Magic. Forgot to photograph the pies that I painstakingly latticed!)

I started Christmas decorating, just a little each day, taking up what I can carry each time I happen to to go down to the basement.  I have taken out my gingerbread and peppermint coffee syrups, put out pine scented candles, switched out hand towels and soap.  A lot of my artificial greenery looks tacky to me now, so it is still down there, but I will probably just give it away.  I will cut real greenery when we get closer.  I want to keep the last week of Advent, and Christmas itself, special.


(All homes should have a Christmas village, obviously, and it must be the first thing to go up each year.)



(Walmart canisters are beautiful in a group of three.)

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I made the velvet pillow covers.  They are envelope style backs with cording.  The fabric is Olive Green Cotton Velvet from  It shed everywhere while I was working with it, but it is very soft and perfect for a throw pillow cover.

The cross stitched one I made last year for the kids.

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An extra pillow to warm up a dining room chair.


Christmas baby!



And a couple treats for teachers, these are King Arthur’s Gingerbread Bundt Cake baked in their Bundt quartet pan.  We had enough batter for three, and ate one ourselves.  It was a delicious recipe!

And now a bit of a break.  There is still a long way to go!  I will focus on cozy and winter for a while, not Christmas quite yet!